Monday, August 25, 2014

A Brave New World: Comic Books as School Textbook

by Hazel Buys

Imagine! Comics were all but outlawed in the classroom after World War II, but today, they have clearly gone mainstream.

Indeed, comics are explicitly recommended for use in the classroom if the content supports the state and national curriculum standards. Responding to this opportunity, Josh Elder has put together an anthology of comic-book style stories, Reading with Pictures, billed as “Comics that make kids smarter.”

Comic book style short stories address topics in a variety of subject areas such as Social Studies, Math, Language Arts and Science, preceded by a useful section at the front, “How to Read a Comic.”
The comic book format means the visuals change with the author so the reader is treated to a sampling of some of the best comic book art being produced today.

Some of the topics are straightforward (how to read Roman numerals) while others are abstract (probability theory). The biography of George Washington brings out little known facts (he required his valet to wear a turban) while embedding his journey to becoming the first President of the United States in the culture and mores of the times, making it easier for a young person to relate to him. The Language Arts section includes a story about the invention of the printing press, an accomplishment of the day that rivals the development of any modern computer technology. The variety of story-telling styles matches the wide range of illustration styles.

Is this an expanding opportunity for fiction or non-fiction author-illustrators? You bet. Josh Elder’s company, Reading With Pictures, is counting on it. Learn more at