Comics improve early literacy

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Washington, November 06 (ANI): Comic books are as valuable as any other form of literature to be a part of children's education, says an expert from University of Illinois.

Carol L. Tilley, a professor of library and information science at Illinois, insists that looking down upon graphic novels as being inept at benefiting the children is a mistake.

Tilley said: "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.

"Some kids, yes. 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.

"Any book can be good and any book can be bad, to some extent. It's up to the reader's personality and intellect. As a whole, comics are just another medium, another genre."

She emphasized that there has been a slow improvement in the reception of comic books.

She said: "There has been an increase in the number of comic book-type elements in books for younger children. There's also a greater appreciation among both teachers and librarians for what comics and comic books can bring to the classroom.

"For example, the National Council of Teachers of English sponsors an instructional Web site called 'Read, Write, Think,' which has a lot of comics-related material. Instructional units like these would have been much more rare 10 years ago."

Tilley further asserted that comic books carry as deep or complex meanings as any other genre of literature does.

She said: "If reading is to lead to any meaningful knowledge or comprehension, readers must approach a text with an understanding of the relevant social, linguistic and cultural conventions.

"And if you really consider how the pictures and words work together in consonance to tell a story, you can make the case that comics are just as complex as any other kind of literature."

Tilley continued that comic books are increasingly being focused on an adult market.

She said: "Between 1955 and the last 10 years, it became very much an adult medium. Part of that was because the comics code watered down what could be sold in drugstores, and also because they were slowly getting out of the affordable price range for kids.

"Comic books became incredibly tame, and the more sophisticated comics were direct sales to adults from the comics publishers.

"In the last 15 years, we've seen some big changes. For instance, comic book publishers and distributors are showing up at library conferences and some review journals regularly evaluate graphic novels. That would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. So it has caught on, to some degree."

Tilley's research on comics was published in School Library Monthly. (ANI)

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