Comics for Teaching

March 6, 2022

There is a great Simpson’s line (there always is) with Principal Skinner. While looking for Bart, who is skipping school, he goes to a couple of places that he thinks children should be. When the second place is closed down he questions himself, “Am I so out of touch? No, it’s the children who are wrong.” This was so funny to me until I met educator after educator who felt this way. If the kids didn’t understand a lesson or do what was expected, they felt this way. It’s the children who are wrong.

This happens with comic books as a tool for teaching. There is a stigma that any good educator needs to go ahead and let go of. Comics are an amazing source for teachers, and not just in literacy. Comic books have all of the content that is needed to teach nearly any subject. The visual nature of the medium lends itself to proper explanations, experiences, and examples (my three E’s) that typical textbooks gloss over. They do this for the same reason that Principal Skinner couldn’t find Bart. The belief that kids should be what we expect, instead of adults reaching down towards children’s actual experiences and tastes.

Kids like comics. Adults' misguided perception that they are simple makes comics less intimidating for children. Dog Man and Captain Underpants by David Pilkey are the ire of parents everywhere. Sad news for anyone who feels this way because Dog Man is the highest selling book of the year so far. No comic. Not just children’s. Not graphic. Not easy reader. The best selling book period. If you aren’t taking advantage of this medium as a teacher to reach students who struggle to read or who don’t enjoy reading because they find it “boring,” then I can only tell you that you need to change your mind.

That’s where my first blog series is going to come from. It’s easy to request that teachers start using comics to teach. As an educator, I know that the best training comes with explanations, experiences, and examples (the three E’s again!). While I am still working on these it is my goal to leave educators with real things they can do in their classroom with these comics right away.

Let’s start today.

Below is a link to panels from San Diego Comic-Con 2021 that focus exclusively on educators. While the presentation was changed to digital, these are good starting points for understanding the need and use of comics in the classroom. Make sure to comment below with your own ideas!