Consider this post a sequel to my earlier one.
Observing that “Maryland has just become the first state in the nation to institute a statewide comics curriculum,” Erin O’Connor questions the wisdom of this move, arguing that we need to make
sure kids get the analytical and reasoning skills they need, and that they begin learning those skills at an appropriate age. There are things you learn to do mentally when you read a long novel alone in several sittings; or when you puzzle over a poem to grasp its metaphors, its meter, and the way the form and content necessitate one another. Those things are subtle, but they are very real. They are also highly transferable. I’m just not convinced that comic books are good material for teachers who want to ensure that their students acquire more than the most elementary reading skills.
One of her commenters says, “I don’t think presenting 10 year olds with comic books is a way to prepare them for the real world.”
Three initial thoughts spring to mind:
- Why do we continue to privilege the image over the word, as if the meaning of the former is always self-evident, requiring no critical thought whatsoever? Sitting for long periods of time with complex images might provide the exact same benefits that sitting with a novel does.
- I have to agree with Matt, who writes that “contemporary cognitive science needs to be part of any serious conversation about attention and imagination.” Novels do a better job than comic books do of lengthening attention spans and teaching kids critical thinking skills? It’s an interesting reseach question. Where’s the research? If it exists, let’s bring it into the conversation.
- Is the value of the study of literature in elementary school confined to how well it prepares ten year olds for “the real world”? As my colleague Bob Stewart said at the Kansas City “Reading at Risk” forum, sometimes the only thing a good book does is take you further inside yourself. Reading can be an activity that’s personally rewarding but that carries no social or civic benefit.
Bonus Link! F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Schulz duke it out.