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Comic Books Improve Early Childhood Literacy

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the shore-helped-mee dept.

Books 127

Hugh Pickens writes "The Telegraph reports that Professor Carol Tilley, a professor of library and information science at the University of Illinois, says that comics are just as sophisticated as other forms of reading, children benefit from reading them at least as much as they do from reading other kinds of books, and that there is evidence that comics increase children's vocabulary and instill a love of reading. 'A lot of the criticism of comics and comic books come from people who think that kids are just looking at the pictures and not putting them together with the words,' says Tilley. 'But you could easily make some of the same criticisms of picture books – that kids are just looking at pictures, and not at the words.' Tilley says that some of the condescension toward comics as a medium may come from the connotations that the name itself evokes but that the distinct comic book aesthetic — frames, thought and speech bubbles, motion lines, to name a few — has been co-opted by children's books, creating a hybrid format."

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No doubt. (4, Interesting)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017024)

There's an art to reading graphic novels, and knowing how to read them. To analyze the frames for relative action to the story and so on. I for one have never been as good at understanding comics as I have traditional literature.

Re:No doubt. (1)

tchuladdiass (174342) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017040)

I was about to post the same thing. Even as a kid I didn't get into comics, because I had to constantly switch my mind from processing words to processing the action. I'd get fatigued from that many context switches in one reading session. This is also the reason I absolutely _hate_ subtitles in movies. I guess my mind is just wired differently.

Re:No doubt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30017336)

It's okay, you can say it.

You're just retarded.

It's fine, many professional people today are retarded.

My sister is retarded and she's a pilot now.

Re:No doubt. (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017736)

I have no problem with subtitles in anime. It's really not that hard to read the text while you're looking at the image.. if anything the text is easier. I want to play the video at double speed sometimes because I read the line instantly and then have to sit around for a few seconds waiting for the character to say it.

As for the story, I'm sure it depends on the type of comic. If you're reading Dresden Codak then you're getting more real material than most books. If you're reading POWs and KER-BLAMs in a superman comic then you're getting nothing. Just like good books and airport paperbacks.

Re:No doubt. (5, Funny)

heritage727 (693099) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017106)

There's an art to reading graphic novels, and knowing how to read them. To analyze the frames for relative action to the story and so on. I for one have never been as good at understanding comics as I have traditional literature.

I agree. My 13 year-old son can read a graphic novel and tell me the story in great detail. When I look at one of his books it's just a bunch of random explosions and women with bizarrely large breasts.

Re:No doubt. (2, Insightful)

TrentTheThief (118302) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017236)

Had you started reading comics when you could buy them for five cents, you'd have had an easier time making sense of the story and not needed to worry about the graphics stealing your concentration. The artwork then, compared to that found in comics today could only be called primitive. This is not to say that the artists were unskilled, but rather that the medium was still, for all its color, only in its late infancy.

The graphic novels of today revel in the pure colors and glossy paper. 50-60 years ago, when they went to press with the "dick tracy" palette and stipple shading, plotlines were somewhat less complicated (stories were pretty cut and dried, good vs. evil with no shades of gray) and relied more on the text than they did on the art. The writers were passing their mores to the next generation, building a society viewed patriotism without today's fashionable disdain, without the snarky remarks about nationalism and right-wing beliefs. It was better then.

I learned to read paying a nickle a comic. I learned the 5x, 10x, and 12x multiplication tables figuring out how many comics I could get according to how many lawns or loads of trash I carted out of neighbor's basements to the alley. Yeah, times were good when I could pay a nickle for a good comic.

Re:No doubt. (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017468)

"The writers were passing their mores to the next generation, building a society viewed patriotism without today's fashionable disdain, without the snarky remarks about nationalism and right-wing beliefs. It was better then."

You forget, that the right wing deserved its disdain by distorting the word 'patriotic' with their 1-bit white&black view.

Re:No doubt. (2, Interesting)

TrentTheThief (118302) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018914)

Such insight.

Your brilliant hindsight is a common flaw of youth. Displaying great wisdom when you have few facts and only one chance to do the right thing is harder than simply passing judgement on decisions made before you were born.

You'll see. Your grandchildren's generation will call you to task for missing the obvious solutions.

Time makes fools of everyone.

Re:No doubt. (2, Insightful)

g253 (855070) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017630)

Well, I personally learned all the multiplication tables at school, it also works... And while a comic functions just like any other book in teaching the kid the many skills needed to enjoy reading, it's obviously not going to be as good as other books for certain specific aspects. You can get a lot from reading comic books, or from reading the Illiad, or Tolkien, or Carroll... you're just not going to learn all the same things. What I mean to say is I think comics are a good read, but shouldn't be the only thing read.

Re:No doubt. (1)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018686)

Judge Dredd comic has a forum where readers can discuss the different stories. I see the same discussions there, as we had in high-school English when taught about the "classical" plays, novels and stories.

Re:No doubt. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30017692)

The graphic novels of today revel in the pure colors and glossy paper. 50-60 years ago, when they went to press with the "dick tracy" palette and stipple shading, plotlines were somewhat less complicated (stories were pretty cut and dried, good vs. evil with no shades of gray) and relied more on the text than they did on the art. The writers were passing their mores to the next generation, building a society viewed patriotism without today's fashionable disdain, without the snarky remarks about nationalism and right-wing beliefs. It was better then.

Of course, you are forgetting that thanks to 'moral panics' about the content of comics, the Comic Code Authority [wikipedia.org] censored all comics to remove storylines which were deemed 'perverted', where authority figures did anything wrong, or where good did not triumph over evil. It's less about the writers' mores and more to do with an industry responding to intense government pressure.

50-60 years ago most people alive remembered the Second World War and the urgent question was whether Communism was going to conquer the world. It's easy to look back at the comics and films of the time and think that this was an era with social harmony and happy families, and forget that mass-market media that questioned that view was not allowed.

Re:No doubt. (1)

TrentTheThief (118302) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018942)

That effort began when Maureen O'Sullivan displayed her smoking hot body on the silver screen in a tarzan movie.

The Hayes Commission began their evil in the 30's.

But there will always be some group who wants you to think and act as they do, no matter how ridiculous there beliefs are.

Re:No doubt. (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018928)

Oh, dear. You never read various of the underground comics, did you? From the "Jack Chick" tracts to the "Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" to "The Spirit", many cartoons have been educational and politically non-standard.

Re:No doubt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30020080)

Also didn't need Mexicans to mow lawn or cart trash...

You're WRONG and Id Like to Settle It in the ARENA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30017386)

Re:You're WRONG and Id Like to Settle It in the AR (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30017476)

Is this another of those stupid games like MyMiniCity where the only skill required is the ability to attract as many people as possible to visit the site?

Re:No doubt. (1)

makuabob (1035076) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017760)


I learned an incredible amount about innuendo, suggestive phrasing, double entendre AND adult humor from years of reading MAD! magazine from the late '50s on. Just the effort of finding the humor in Spy vs Spy several times each issue was an exercise with a great payoff! It sent me on my way to early geekdom as a radio-TV repairman, electronics technician in the Navy and, totally unavoidable, computer programming as early as the 1980s! Many thanks, Alfred E.! (BTW, I have the current issue (Will Worry for Food, right here :-)

And even though they are "cartoons," the close runners-up for kicking me between my eyes, time after time, are Rocky & Bullwinkle plus George of the Jungle. Adult content? Almost every episode! I thank you, & thank you, & thank you!!

Reading comix (1)

Richard Kirk (535523) | more than 4 years ago | (#30020310)

There is a lot of poor comic stuff out there. It is an undervalued medium, so the people who do it tend to be a bit off-beat. You get a lot of strange stuff, a lot of experimental stuff, a lot of actually not very good stuff. A lot of web comics are done by people who are developing their style while holding down other jobs. But there are gems. If we have a good peer group that reads comics and appreciates them; and comic book artists just become 'artists', then one day we may get immortal works to sit alongside the great literature on our shelves, if there are still shelves and books. Right now, it is still a bit rough, but they are getting there.

For me, a great comic book will have a depth and a degree of interconnection that it is hard to reproduce with a linear stream of text. It is a bit more like reading an orchestral music score, where you have many time-lines at once. If you find yourself flicking back a page or two to find out who the person in the flat hat is, this is the right way of reading a good comic. If you notice something in the background, and have a nagging feeling you saw something like that before, but didn't take it in at the time, then the authors are playing you like a fish. If you zoom through the thing in ten minutes, then either the thing has no depth, or you've missed it. It is so easy to go too quick, but you have to pace yourself.

There is also a lot of art in how the scene is framed. You may see the people in silhouette, or you may see them drawn is classic cartoon outlines. Is the artist trying to get you into the scene with the protagonists, or giving you a disinterested view from above? What's in the speach bubble, and how are they saying it? There are may different forms of speech bubble to hint at whispering, shouting, voice over telephone, emotional strain and so forth. Somewhere, there is a web site that listed the different Marvel Comics speech balloons: you might be surprised how subtle and nuanced the language of the speech balloon is.

Where to start? Everyone will have their favorites. However, for an all-round holistic experience, I would personally recommend the original 'V', with its crude coloring and cheap-looking paper: it is a much more gritty and awful than the film. For classics, look at Tin Tin and Steve Canyon. Search for webcomics. Dark Horse publishing has a site which gives a section of various books, which is an excellent introduction to the variation in styles.

BTW: I mostly read regular books. Good graphic novels cost too much, and they are gone too fast. But it is a fine and open-ended medium. Have a look at the best. If you can't like it, no big deal: I can't take classical ballet, but others do. Enjoy!

What's the difference (5, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017064)

Q: What's the difference between a comic and a graphic novel?

A: About twenty quid.


Re:What's the difference (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018156)

Q: What's the difference between a comic and a graphic novel?

A: About twenty quid.

s/comic/novel/ and it's still true

Re:What's the difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30020658)

Look up, you might see the point.

Manga (1)

linebackn (131821) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017096)

If they think comic books will help, just imagine what they could do with manga!

Re:Manga (1, Offtopic)

Virak (897071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017168)

I don't think the world needs a whole generation of children wearing Naruto headbands. Now, if we can get them all to read something like Berserk, then maybe it'll be a good idea. We'd certainly be well prepared for any sudden outbreaks of horrible hellish rapebeasts.

Re:Manga (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30019608)

What can they do with Manga????

Create a society of post-modern, deconstructionist people who takes pride in creating subcultures to alienating people outside of their circles. A people who takes pride in ridiculing rather than building and constructing.

Luckily adults quickly out-grow these when they enter the job market and know that they have to do constructive stuffs to get food. However, there is still a troubling under-current of such "arts" people in Japan who simply do not want to study and be productive, and instead just makes fun of anything/everything relevant.

Yes. That's what you can do with Manga. (And I have not even touched on the thorny issue of "Dojin". Another day.)

Also foreign language learning. . . (5, Insightful)

bogidu (300637) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017102)

I lived in Spain for a year, spoke/read very little spanish when I moved there and read alot of x-men comic books. They did help me pick up vocabulary and common expressions and such. Anyone who things that any form of reading cannot help just due to it's content is just being prejudicial against the material.

Re:Also foreign language learning. . . (5, Interesting)

gmanterry (1141623) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017154)

I had the same experience when the Peace Corps sent me to French West Africa. French books use different tenses than spoken French. We spent three months learning French. I could order a meal, rent a car, etc, but I could not carry on a conversation. A friend suggested I buy some French comics. They are all written is 'spoken' French. It helped me a lot. I would suggest to anyone learning a foreign language to read comics in that foreign language. Terry

Re:Also foreign language learning. . . (3, Informative)

Renraku (518261) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017160)

A friend of mine is obsessed with all things Japanese. I'm interested in the language myself, so I used the Rosetta stone software. I was impressed with what I was able to learn. Fast forward two years.

He knows way more Japanese than I do. I can barely remember the katakana/hirogana. He has a real actual USE for it, and uses it daily. I don't use it much at all. When I do, I have to look everything up.

I suspect if I had gotten some manga (in Japanese) or read a lot of Japanese websites, I'd be much better at it today.

Re:Also foreign language learning. . . (4, Informative)

wrook (134116) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018846)

Manga is excellent at teaching spoken Japanese. Almost without exception the language you see is the same language that people are using to communicate in every day situations. Of course you have to avoid using extremely rude or bizarre expressions. But it isn't actually difficult to determine what those are. People who don't read manga have this strange idea that manga readers walk around talking like Naruto. The one drawback is that you aren't going to be exposed to a large amount of very polite language. But, personally, I think you shouldn't concentrate on that until you have a decent fluency with plain forms (YMMV)

For anyone who wants to read manga to learn Japanese I have two pieces of advice. If your vocabulary isn't that good, you'll be looking up every second word and it will go too slowly for you to remember anything. Memorize vocabulary as you go until you can read about 95% without looking up the words. After that point, you may not have to memorize words explicitly if you are reading enough. You might just learn them as you're reading (again, YMMV). But using a computer or electronic dictionary dramatically speeds up searching, so don't bother with paper.

The second piece of advice is to read Tae Kim's Grammar guide http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar [guidetojapanese.org] There is almost nothing in a manga that isn't covered in this guide. I also believe that Tae Kim's presentation is vastly superior to any other Japanese grammar book. Personally, I memorize all the example sentences from the guide (English --> Japanese) using a spaced repetition program.

Using primarily manga and Tae Kim's guide I've become relatively functional in Japanese. I can hang out with people who only speak Japanese and have a good time. I've even been on a couple of dates where the girl didn't speak any English. I've never taken a Japanese class.

Re:Also foreign language learning. . . (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 4 years ago | (#30020062)

I can hang out with people who only speak Japanese and have a good time. I've even been on a couple of dates where the girl didn't speak any English. I've never taken a Japanese class.

And I bet you got the typical american accent (or danish or what ever, they're all horrible) that is so grating to the ear.

There is no substitute for a thorough, academically based intensive language course you get at good universities. You'll be spending the rest of your time trying to correct faults in your pronunciation if you don't get them right from the start. And there's only one series of study materials that I've come over that I would recommend; Genki [japantimes.co.jp].

Re:Also foreign language learning. . . (1)

the_one(2) (1117139) | more than 4 years ago | (#30020628)

My strategy is to learn to understand japanese good enough that I can understand a conversation well enough and then use english to communicate. It's always easier to learn to understand than to speak. (Note: I learn japanese mainly as a hobby.)

Re:Also foreign language learning. . . (1)

wrook (134116) | more than 4 years ago | (#30020834)

No I don't. Everyone tells me my accent is very easy to understand. My biggest problem is getting the tones right. I often learn vocabulary from reading so I'll guess at the tones. Often I'm wrong ;-). But my friends correct me immediately, so it's not a problem.

I forgot to mention a few things that I do as well. I *talk* to people. Right from the very beginning I went to Japanese meet ups in order to practice speaking. Now I live in Japan, so I talk to people in Japanese every day.

The other thing I do is karaoke. This is *excellent* pronunciation practice. But it's important to be really anal about imitating the original. It's also helped me learn about and hear different accents in Japanese.

I agree that Genki is an excellent resource. I actually bought it when I was first starting. However, that kind of study just doesn't work for me. I couldn't get any traction until someone suggested I started reading kids books. At that point my Japanese exploded. My biggest problem with Genki is that it isn't based around plain form. Japanese grammar seems arbitrary and strange if you think masu/desu is normal grammar. Learning polite speech is easy after you get some fluency in plain form. But the other way around is not (at least for me).

In the end, learning a language is a very personal thing. Classes work for some people, but not for others. It is incorrect to say that you can only learn a language through an intensive academic course. Certainly some people find it extremely helpful. But there are other ways to get to the same place.

Re:Also foreign language learning. . . (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30020206)

Yeah, just beware of being that guy who takes Japanese language classes who obviously obsesses way too much over manga and anime. Everybody I know who has taken a class in that language says there are guys -- repeat that, guys -- in the class who show up on Day One calling everybody "Janice-chan" and whatever. Japanese language students can smell an otaku a mile away, and though those types often show up with some advance knowledge they're generally the equivalent of a boat anchor around the necks of students who want to learn the language the way it's actually spoken.

Better choices, perhaps... (1)

Estanislao Martnez (203477) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018242)

It's usually the case that in every country there is a classic comic strip or two that is very highly regarded, and which language learners would do very well to pick up and read, with the extra bonuses that (a) people won't look down on you for reading it, and (b) people often make references and allusions to the strips in question in everyday conversation. For American English it's Peanuts [wikipedia.org]; for Spanish it's Mafalda [wikipedia.org]; for French it's Astérix [wikipedia.org].

Re:Also foreign language learning. . . (2, Interesting)

Panoptes (1041206) | more than 4 years ago | (#30019028)

I owe my fluency in French to Asterix - started back in 1965 while studying for A Level French, and never looked back. I not only actively encourage my secondary school English as a Second Language students to read comics, but get them to create their own - drawing and writing them as a class exercise. It's one of the most successful classroom activities that I know.

Re:Also foreign language learning. . . (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30020680)

I owe my fluency in French to Asterix - started back in 1965 while studying for A Level French, and never looked back.

Asterix is aimed at small children. You should be well beyond that by the time you even start A level. Especially back then when you weren't guaranteed a minimum C grade for spelling your name right.

Re:Also foreign language learning. . . (1)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 4 years ago | (#30020676)

I believe reading my father's collection of english-language underground comics as a child contributed significantly to my English skills. (Not a native speaker) I remember first leafing through them when I was maybe 7 years old, and I would return to them from time to time when I was bored. At first I found the more adult-oriented stuff boring (and it really was not what you would call suitable material for children, what with all the drug use and sexual content), skipping it altogether for strips with more pictures and fewer words. Gradually, though, as my ability to read the language grew and I matured otherwise, I began to appreciate the more complex stories as well. Fortunately my parents never saw it fit to prevent me from reading the material - conventional wisdom certainly would suggest I should have been seriously damaged by it. Instead, I learned from it.

Would it kill you to mention some titles? (5, Informative)

Alaren (682568) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017108)

Despite their marginalization, Tilley said the distinct comic book aesthetic -- frames, thought and speech bubbles, motion lines, to name a few -- has been co-opted by children's books, creating a hybrid format.

"There has been an increase in the number of comic book-type elements in books for younger children," Tilley said.

For anyone who wants to know what she's talking about, go check out Diary of a Wimpy Kid [wimpykid.com]--assuming you haven't already. It's usually categorized as a "Middle Grade" series of books and is hugely best-selling. It isn't as epic or serious as Harry Potter or the Twilight books, and solidly middle grade stuff doesn't usually get as much play in the press because it doesn't cross over as well into an adult audience, but Jeff Kinney makes fabulous use of short, often one-panel "comics" right in the flow of the story. It's more than illustrations (as still seen in many MG books) but less than exposition.

I'm not sure why the only titles mentioned in the article were Astro Boy and Sailor Moon. I think the professor's arguments are well-considered, but there are some great concrete examples that would have given the article a little more meat.

Re:Would it kill you to mention some titles? (1)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018486)

It isn't as epic or serious as Harry Potter or the Twilight books


I guess you didn't actually read Twilight [thebigbags.com], did you?

Ha! (4, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017134)

What a coincidence. I was just thinking about my dad -- ordinarily a highly intelligent person -- and how he once told me how disappointed he was that I was reading comics, because "I'd forget how to read real books," or some such nonsense. (I was probably about 14 at the time -- a crucial time of life, apparently, when the danger of literary alopecia lurks around every corner.)

What pop seemed to have forgotten was that a large part of the reason why I was reading three or four grades ahead of my class when I first started school was because A.) I had seen the movie Star Wars, and B.) that meant I needed to immerse myself in every Star Wars thing I could possibly get my hands on, especially including comic books.

Remember, there was no way to just watch your favorite movie at home in those days. One of the main ways to get my daily fix of the Force was to revisit the saga in comic book form. And it turns out this was actually a very efficient way to learn how to read. Consider: Having seen the movie in the theater about seven times already, I had pretty much memorized all the lines. The dialogue in the comic books wasn't exactly the same, but before long I could easily follow along with the simple lines and expository captions.

These days I'm revisiting the same trick, reading Franco-Belgian graphic albums as a booster for studying French. My brain is far less able to pick up languages these days than when I was a kid, but the same rules apply with modern French comics as with those Star Wars comics from the 70s, for the most part. The things characters say aren't usually all that complex, and the pictures often give you a hint as to what they might be saying. You can even pick up idioms and colloquialisms that you might not normally be exposed to by a textbook.

I'm glad to see someone's actually doing the research, though. It's probably the only way you would ever convince my dad.

Re:Ha! (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017554)

My brother would summon disasters from the menus in SimCity 2000 before he could read. I'm not sure how much of it was recognizing the word, but still...

Re:Ha! (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018052)

Show me a 10-year-old who knows the meaning of "invulnerable", and I'll show you a kid who reads comics.

I learned to read before I started school, well enough that they put me in a 1st-grade class for reading when I was supposed to be in kindergarten. I was also a fan of comic books and comic strips. Not a coincidence. Reading comics engages both the linguistic left side of the brain and the spatial right side of the brain. What could be a better way of learning?

Re:Ha! (1)

MacWiz (665750) | more than 4 years ago | (#30020354)

I learned to read before I started school...

So did I and it was because my grandmother taught me how to read the Sunday comics. I was successful in passing this extra advantage on to my own child by doing the same thing. Anything that makes kids want to read is a good thing. Once you start reading, spelling and vocabulary happen almost on their own.

Re:Ha! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30019504)

I was reading well when I was four years old, almost exclusively because I had my grandmother read comics to me. I got to know them well enough that I started correcting her when she made a mistake, so she quit and told me to read them myself. One evening at dinner I saw something in the newspaper and started reading it; Dad asked what I thought I was doing, and Mom said I was reading. Dad, said something along the lines of, show me how you read, thinking I could not. So I read it to him and it floored him; he didn't know. When I was five, I helped my six-year-old neighbor by reading to him from comics, and he went back to 2nd grade reading after leaving 1st grade unable to. The teachers were pretty surprised, especially when they found out why. So let your kid read comics or anything they can get ahold of short of playboy and the like. Start 'em out right...

In Other News.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30017136)

Professor in a literature-related field states that his pet favorite genre is just as sophisticated as any other type of literature.

Seriously, is this really necessary on Slashdot? Do the hundreds of science fiction studies professors who loudly proclaim that sci-fi is just as valid a genre as any other get posts on Slashdot too?

Re:In Other News.... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017152)

Yes. How many people get told "comics aren't real books" on a daily basis? Especially before manga and the superhero movies made comics "cool" again, comics were widely considered the lowest form of reading. Science fiction on the other hand wasn't/isn't under as much fire.

Re:In Other News.... (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017206)

Do the hundreds of science fiction studies professors who loudly proclaim that sci-fi is just as valid a genre as any other get posts on Slashdot too?

Believe it or not, there are a great many works of fiction that are not genre fiction -- consider, say, Moby-Dick. From that perspective, saying one fiction genre is equal to another is sort of like saying one pizza is the same as any other. You might disagree. You might like pizza from one pizza place better than the others, or one might deliver faster. But all pizzas are, at the end of the day, pizzas. There's not really any point in arguing.

What this study is hoping to help dismiss, on the other hand, is the idea that comics in and of themselves are a genre. There are a lot of people that will tell you that it doesn't matter whether the subject matter of a comic is science fiction, superheroes, Western, mystery, horror, or slice-of-life; the comic has a genre, and that genre is comics. People who know better get fed up with this attitude and are happy to hear about people doing things to change the public consciousness.

Medium, not genre (4, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018102)

Comics are not a genre.

Westerns, science fiction, romance, mystery, autobiography, war, superheroes, etc. are genres.

Comics are a medium - like films, prose, poetry, songs, or plays - one capable of telling stories in any genre. The problem is that the mediums of comix is so closely associated in our current culture with funny-animal stories for children and superhero stories for adolescents, that people don't realise what the medium is really capable of, especially its ability to be sophisticated enough to engage intelligent adults. But name any popular genre, and I can name a comic book series or graphic novel that tells a story in that genre.

Interesting... (2, Interesting)

Seakip18 (1106315) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017166)

I always enjoyed reading the comics as a kid. I'd have to say Calvin and Hobbes was the best. Nothing like a big cardboard box being so many different things when left to your imagination.

comic books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30017230)

Mom doesn't understand comic books. She doesn't realize that comic books deal with serious issues of the day. Today's superheroes face tough moral dillemas. Comic books aren't just escapist fantasy. They're sophisticated social critiques.

Re:comic books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30017278)

Correction: They're sophisticated social critiques in ridiculous neon tights.

Gateway to literature AND art (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017250)

Comic books are a great gateway drug to more serious reading. If a kid gets interested in story and plot then they will continue that interest in other reading materials... but at the same time, comics can help instill an appreciation of graphic arts in a way they might not have otherwise. It's a twofer!

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud (1)

six11 (579) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017266)

Nerds of many stripes can benefit from the book Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud [scottmccloud.com]. It is required reading in many undergrad and masters programs (like HCI, Film, English, Interaction Design, etc). If you ever have the chance to see Scott give a talk, do yourself a favor and go.

If you aren't sure if comics are a legitimate art or communication medium, read the book. It uses comics as a platform for explaining how narrative works---and that's something that is useful to basically everybody.

Makes sense (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017298)

My son is seven years old and has graduated to books like Zac Power [wikipedia.org]. But two years ago he was into comic books. I think anything which gets them reading is good. With a comic they can follow the pictures then use the words to better understand the story, so it definitely leads them into reading and gives them the confidence to turn the pages.

Uncle Scrooge and Nephews in the 50s (1)

shoor (33382) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017638)

I grew up in the 50s. The proprietor of a general store near home let me read comics off the rack, which was very nice of him, even though I did buy a lot after reading them. The best were the Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comics. The ones I found out years and years later were written and drawn by Carl Barks. That's where I learned about the 7 Cities of Cibola, Atlantis, King Solomon's Mines, The Philosopher's Stone, The Abominable Snowman. As I got older I came to appreciate the complexity of the characters, with their flaws that constantly got them in trouble. I've always felt they were more sophisticated than the superhero comics. I came to figure out that the superheroes were always being misunderstood and that this was to target teenagers who presumably were always feeling like they were misunderstood. Oh, in the 60s Mad Magazine was pretty damn good too. I wish I still had the issue that talked about Macomber Bombey. Bombey was a photographer who went out with all the intrepid explorers and photographed them. But he never got any recognition himself. Whenever I see something like "Globetrekker" on TV, with somebody like Ian Wright running along the beach in Morocco to the sea, that it's Macomber Bombey out there running along behind him wielding a camera.

Re:Uncle Scrooge and Nephews in the 50s (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30018948)

I learned to read from comics around 1955: Superman, Batman, and Disney comics. I was 4 at the time.

Thanks to the comics, I entered the 1st grade on a 4th grade reading level.

Take with a pinch of Salt... (1)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017716)

Now as a kid who had a fairly vast comic book collection I would read them a lot, and well looked at the drawings as well ( Mrs. Fantastic was pretty dang hot ) and I doubt I am any worse for the exposure.

Fast Forward 40 years and now I have an 8 year old. He just finished reading Tom Sawyer for school and was completely absorbed by it and it had very few simple line drawing illustrations. He is trending toward books with few illustrations and I am really ok with that.

I am not sure if that is a product of both me and my wife reading to him almost every night since he was old enough to do something more then drool and stair at us or not but I like to think it is. I am also not sure if it is a product of very very little video based entertainment. He gets no TV during the week and although he can have pretty much as much as he can stomach on the weekends he does end up doing more reading and Lego stuff.

Please keep in mind that your mileage may be extremely different and my way is by no means the only or best way, it is simply the way I chose.

Accuracies (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017724)

Why so defensive? I haven't heard a discouraging word about comics since specialty stores started pulling in big bucks and especially since Bruce Willis made it a habit of using them as a primary source. Perhaps TFA wouldn't get get as much milage here if it made the generalization explicit and said that narrated dialog with action directions given as illustrations improved etc. etc. And the author may not have been confident of the attention to be had except when there's a condescending offstage character tossing off connotations. But frankly I haven't heard a new one of those since Heavy Metal appeared. Still, how he arrives at the criticism that kids are looking at the pictures but not the words is beyond me. It'd be demonstrable either way in any case, and that's on the kid, not the medium. If the medium were to blame, doctors' and dentists' waiting rooms around the world wouldn't have books of bible stories done up in this format, since the people who make these available tend to want to be taken seriously more so than most others producing material in this form.

Dr. Tilley isn't exactly putting up a straw man, but he's definitely dragging out a wimpy old adversary who's long past his prime.

Other languages, too (2, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017752)

Someone above mentioned Spanish, but I've been using 'comic books' to help learn Japanese. Regular books are -far- too hard yet, but I could puzzle my way through an easy manga (japanese comic book) months ago now. Now I'm up to early teen mangas and still getting better. Yes, my goal is to eventually read any book I can lay my hands on, but there's no doubt in my mind that manga have made it far, far easier to learn Japanese.

I see no reason this wouldn't be the same for English as well. Yes, there may be some reluctance from the child when moving from comics to real books, but if they already enjoy reading when it comes time for that, it'll be easier.

So what does pornography improve? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30017792)

Wrist strength?

Back in the day, comic books were EVIL! (2, Interesting)

Roblimo (357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30017964)

Yah. I remember, as a kid in Orange, California in the late 50s - mid 60s, the unanimous line from parents and teachers about how comics would rot your brain and keep you from ever reading "real" books.

Funny thing: me and my comics-reading, comics-trading buddies all grew up to love reading. We graduated from comics to adult (not meant in the porn sense, you dirty-minded pervert) books earlier than most of our peers, and still, in our 50s, tend to read more than most people.

Go figure!

Not Buying It (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018076)

> A lot of the criticism of comics and comic books come from people
> who think that kids are just looking at the pictures and not putting
> them together with the words,' says Tilley. 'But you could easily
> make some of the same criticisms of picture books - that kids are
> just looking at pictures, and not at the words.'

Umm, kids read picture books up through about Kindergarten, and yeah, they *are* basically just looking at the pictures and, hopefully, listening -- mom and dad are supposed to be reading to them at that point, obviously.

Kids who are old enough to actually *read*, however, tend to read books that are mostly or entirely text. Charlotte's Web, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Hobbit, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that sort of thing. You know, actual books. Did they compare the comic books to those?

Any good Russian comics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30018112)

My Russian's getting a bit rusty. Anyone know of any good online Russian comics? As others have stated, it's a very good way of working on colloquial language variants.

More than pretty pictures. (2, Funny)

oniboy (786449) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018124)

I've always suspected as much.
I only read Playboy to increase my vocabulary and increase a love of reading.

Re:More than pretty pictures. (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018548)

You could do a lot worse : "A few of the notable authors [knowledgerush.com] who have had works published in Playboy include John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Alex Haley, Stephen King and many more". A lot of SF greats [knowledgerush.com] have also published in Playboy : "In 1966, the magazine showed off a bit with The Playboy Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, a selection of tales first published in its pages, including George Langelaan's "The Fly" (source of the movie), Charles Beaumont's "The Crooked Man," Arthur C. Clarke's "I Remember Babylon," and well-written stories by the likes of Sturgeon, Frederik Pohl, Robert Sheckley, and William Tenn."

Supervillain Vocabulary (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018126)

In my high school etymology class, we were given bonus points for finding in print examples of the obscure words we learned in class. I found the most by focusing on comic books. Supervillain vocabulary is replete with big words.

As long as we call them what they are (1)

DrugCheese (266151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018230)

Comic books. I've always hated the name 'Graphic Novels'

If we're gonna rename it they should be called 'Paper Cartoons'

Re:As long as we call them what they are (1)

Eerikki (1045026) | more than 4 years ago | (#30020380)

Why the hate? Are you afraid that somebody would *gasp* think of them as real literature?

Yes, of course the 'Graphic Novels' are comics too, but all comics aren't graphic novels. A comic collecting newspaper strips from say, Calvin and Hobbes, is hardly a graphic novel. On the other hand comics such as Watchmen, Sandman or many others are clearly full independent 'long and complex narratives', 'graphic novels' if you like. Or do you feel the same way with the term 'Novel', when they could just as well be called books?

The Paper Cartoon comment is borderline insulting. It's almost as suggesting we drop the word 'Novel' and start using 'Crime fiction' for all books...

Re:As long as we call them what they are (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30020816)

Actually, there's a technical classification:

Comic books; the thirty-odd page pamphlets, usually serialised, published just about monthly
Trade paperback (TPB); collections of comic books, usually containing six to eight issues from the same series
Graphic novels; original, longer-form stories in the comics format, not previously published as individual issues and usually designed to be consumed as a single, standalone story.

Re:As long as we call them what they are (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30020840)

Actually, there's a technical classification:

Comic book; a single issue, usually about thirty pages, usually published serially, usually published monthly
Trade paperback (TPB); collections of previously published material, usually comprising six to eight issues of a title
Graphic novel (also Original Graphic Novel (OGN)); original material in the comics form, not published previously in serial format, usually designed to contain a single story.

Long history of this in Belgium (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018328)

We have a very long tradition of teaching kids to read by reading comic books here in Belgium. Generation have grown up with kid friendly comics like Jommeke [wikipedia.org] and Suske en Wiske [wikipedia.org] eventually graduating to more complex ones like the ever popular Tin Tin [wikipedia.org]. One common trope is to have a character with a confused manner of talking who is always being corrected which effectively shows kids how they should talk. They are also routinely used to teach foreign languages. I myself learned french using Suske En Wiske (Bob et Bobette) comic strips and translated Asterix books are sometimes given as introductory literature for latin classes.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30018534)

I remember reading Spiderman and Batman before I started kindergarten. I have said this for years, young boys will read more if they are excited about what they read. By the time I was seven I had quite a collection, and spent lots of time taking it in. I then went into the Fantasy of Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia before I was 10 and on to Conan Mags and Heavy Metal and a thousand Novels and Books since. I don't believe i would be as avid a reader as I am now if it had not been for Comic Books.

From the Annals of Obvious Research (1)

AdamInParadise (257888) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018606)

The fact that reading comics promotes litteracy is pretty obvious to anyone living anywhere with a strong "comic book" culture such as Japan, South Korea or French-speaking countries. The problem is that most US comic books are not very good, and the good ones are not targeted as kids (mostly).

subtitled movies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30018662)

Watching subtitled movies with foreign language audio must have similarly positive effects to reading comprehension and vocabulary. Not that it's common in English-speaking countries, or places where movies are always dubbed. But in other places, it's pretty much the only way you can watch a (non-native) movie, so the motivation to read is high! It also doesn't hurt to hear the foreign dialog as it helps learning that language.

It's all good (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30018768)

Imaginative stuff in the formative years is always good. Gets the brain going. For example, my parents were pretty cool and let me watch James Bond and kung fu films from a young age. By age 10 I could seduce sexy Russian double agents and break a man's spine with my fingertips. Ah, good times. :-)

Me not sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30018978)

this right.

The language is just as important as the story. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30019124)

We think in the language we speak, if we allow our children to be further dumbed down, via a lack of exposure to language, even for language's sake, we're in trouble folks.

Simplified language = Simplified thought. I don't have a problem with comic books, but what kind of good parent would allow their child to escape actually reading something?

From X-men to Shakespeare (1)

xanthos (73578) | more than 4 years ago | (#30019184)

I started my kids on comics when they were little to get them interested in reading and it worked. They still read comics along with plenty of other "serious" reading. Hell, my oldest had read the complete works of Shakespeare ON HER OWN before she was out of high school. Now she takes books on molecular biology along for light reading when she goes to cons.

Setting, plot and character development, story arc, social interactions. Good vs Evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice, freedom, oppression and bigotry. Comic books pretty much covers it all.

Immigrants (1)

jnork (1307843) | more than 4 years ago | (#30019234)

My wife's parents came to the US after the war (Holocaust survivors). They learned a great deal of their English by reading comic books.

Can't say about her father's grasp of English (he's dead) but her mother's is pretty good.

Hard to read aloud (1)

cretog8 (144589) | more than 4 years ago | (#30019268)

It turns out not to be needed for our kid, who loves a bunch of different books, but I tried to motivate learning to read by nearly refusing to read him comics. That wasn't because I think they're bad, but because comics (once that use the medium well, at least) don't read aloud easily. As the reader, you constantly have to be deciding the chronology of which sounds/thoughts/voices come when, and whether to whisper, and when to say, "and Batman's thinking..." or whatever. And then you've got maybe a bunch of panels with no words at all, and do you say anything for them or let the pictures speak for themselves?

Blah, It's just not fun for me reading those aloud. So, they're reserved for solo reading.

really old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30019336)

This is not news. Pretty much anyone that has been trained in the teaching of reading knows that readers (especially emerging readers) benefit from any and all exposure to print. The data do tend to support this position. So I'm not sure this qualifies as news-worthy.

Also, everyone seems to have missed the fact that Tilley is a Librarian, and not a reading teacher or professor of Ed specializing in reading instruction. The two are not synonymous.

Comics are both positive and important (1)

petrus4 (213815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30020264)

I unfortunately never experienced comics as a kid. I remember being in a newsagent with my father at the age of four or five, and on seeing some comics there, asked my father about them. Dad was fairly conservative, at the time at least, and his response was along the lines that they were full of weird, potentially Satanic stuff, and that he didn't want me reading them. At the time of course, I was still sufficiently impressionable that my response was, "Yes, Dad," and for a long time, I never looked at them again.

Almost 20 years later, I had a friend who was a graphic artist, and who had been an avid reader of comics for most of his life. Along with my own exposure to the Batman movies and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons, this friend managed to convey to me the creative benefits that comics can have for both their readers, and their artists.

As I think other people have said, comics are the contemporary form of cave painting, which essentially allows the continuation of one of a very small number of indigenous practices, within contemporary white society.

As with indigenous mythmaking, they allow for a culturally unique and relevant form of explanation/interpretation/processing of events going on around their authors and readers. I thought the depiction of Lex Luthor becoming President within the Superman comics, during the presidency of George W. Bush, was a classic case in point. I can remember reading that Clarke Kent was depicted as being particularly quiet and introspective during 9/11, as well, and was mentally wondering how large America's own responsibility for the event was. These are cases where the authors and readers of comics, can express and analyse their genuine thoughts and feelings, in what may well be the only context where it is truly safe for them to do so.

I've also heard about Marvel producing comics about the old Norse pantheon, as well. As a theist, and as someone who actually believes in the Aesir as a group of literally existing beings, (although I don't worship them, personally) I view these stories as being a scenario where contemporary people can be exposed to these deities, and appreciate the genuine benefits that can be had from such exposure, in a non-threatening and culturally relevant way.

In a society where atheism is becoming as prevalent as it is, within contemporary society, comics may, in the end, be the only chance of exposure to anything beyond the mundane that most people get.

Ssshhh! Keep it quiet! (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 4 years ago | (#30020460)

...or they'll put comic books on the school curriculum, and no kid will ever want to read one again.

For my son it was the BBC.. (2, Interesting)

cheros (223479) | more than 4 years ago | (#30020492)

My son didn't have cartoons, but he got addicted to a BBC programme called "Words & pictures" [bbc.co.uk] which was shown every morning (and we ended up religiously taping). This starts with describing letters ("e" - "eel, egg") and then draws them very explicitly on a whiteboard with a "magic marker" ("straight across and rouuund"), and the series gradually moves into paired characters and then eventually words. This interest started at age 2.5 or so, and after a totally worn out video recorder (for seeing things again), a mountain of scrapbooks (at first, one character was enough to fill a page) and half a paycheck on whiteboard markers (until we found the liquid filled ones that don't dry out) he was writing and reading at age 3.5. I had not realised he picked up pre-reading as well until I asked him to read ME a story, and it was too fluent for him to read that word by word. A few years later I noticed him speed reading as well, he seems to follow the diagonal method.

All we did was give him the opportunity, the exposure. No pressure, just help if it didn't work or learning how to hold a pen properly and how to make letters the same size when fine motoric skills were up to it. I must admit I was a bit worried about how deep he got into this - on holidays, all it took was a pen and a notepad to keep him from getting bored. He seems to have my affinity for fast pattern recognition, maybe that helped - I remember having to slow him down so he switched from reading the words to understanding the sentence and its content.

At his school there was another girl who'd done exactly the same, so they ended up reading the story of the nativity play that year together.

Personally, if the BBC would put that series out on DVDs I would recommend this to any parent. Kids seem to pick things up at warp speed when they're ready for it and interested, just don't try to force it (especially when they're little - they will go to school soon enough). Most of the time exposing them to as many different things as possible and having fun with it is enough - if something resonates you'll know soon.

Thank you BBC.

I learned to read from comics (1)

erik.martino (997000) | more than 4 years ago | (#30020642)

I think comics are excellent literature to learn reading. When I was a child, I had a lot of Donald Duck comics, which are popular in Denmark. I read them over and over again. Little by little, I understood the text better, and by the time I started in school I was able to read. Comics have the advantage that the text is guided by images, this means you can skip the parts that are too advanced for you and still get the overall story, and by repetition you can reduce the parts that you don't understand.

Fat Freddy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30020744)

I don't know how "The Freak Brothers" and Fat Freddy fit in to this. But that was definitely the best comic ever...

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