08 November 2008

A Comics Reading and Reading Comics

Today in New York, Neil Gaiman will appear at a reading of his Sandman comics on the occasion of their twentieth anniversary. The event benefits the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. No, I'm not going to be there, and most likely neither are you since it's a reservations-only event.

I bring this up because it touches on a topic that teachers and parents are probably facing more and more as stories in comics form become accepted as literature.

How, one might ask, does one do a public reading of a comics story? "Okay, we turn the page, and up in this corner we see Jodie looking kind of nervous, and she says, 'What do you mean?' And then the next panel we see--you guys in back might want to come a little closer--we see the whole group from above, and..."

The Sandman event is a dramatic reading, featuring voice actors. And that approach might offer some guidance about how teachers and parents can share graphic novels with children. Because traditional reading-aloud doesn't work well without a narrative voice. The words in comics are more like a script than like a prose story.

The Graphic Classroom has suggested a couple of ways of sharing comics with a whole classroom, including a projector and assigning parts to different students. (This blog also recommends Tiny Titans, featuring a version of Robin. Just in case you thought I'd miss that.)

Comics in the Classroom takes a different approach, finding some comics more suited to the classroom than others:

There are three criteria I judge a book on when bringing into my classroom (honestly, I'll take any appropriate book that I can get my hands on, but only certain ones get the spotlight). The criteria are: Is it visually appealing, is it well written, and can it be read out loud to a group of children? The first two apply to comics, but the third isn't really fair. The Pigeon books [by Mo Willems] are fine for read-a-louds, because there is very little use of panels and the word balloons seem to be written with whole class readings in mind, but the other books in this discussion seem to be written more for the one on one, small group read.
Jim Trelease of The Read-Aloud Handbook has recommended the Tintin books for reading aloud with one or two children at a time ("Because of the size of the pictures"). Hergé's graphics are clear, and his adventures active. I imagine some young readers might like to be responsible for reading certain parts or sound effects while an adult handles the rest of the cast.

1 comment:

Melissa Wiley said...

My 3rd child taught herself to read at age 5 with the Tintin books. (In conjunction with a fair amount of Bob Book reading with me.) She pored over those pictures for hours, and would ask her older sisters to read them to her. None of us could keep up with her Tintin appetite. :)

Three years later, she is still a huge Tintin fan--as are her big sisters. The (relatively) recent hardcover collections of three stories each have been the favorite Christmas gifts of the past few years. Woohoo Tintin!