I have Arabic comic books on the brain. And then this morning I saw this, from the Vancouver Sun:
Teachers and school boards should embrace comic books and graphic novels as a “gateway” literature, helping children transition towards more complex narratives and helping boys catch up with girls in reading achievement, according to a new study.
I don’t know about categorizing graphic novels as “gateway” literature; I think good ones can be an end in and of themselves. But, in any case, the Canadian study—released Wednesday—noted that comics and graphic novels “can help bridge the learning gap between boys and girls.”
I wasn’t too worried about Arabic-reading boys falling behind Arabic-reading girls—although perhaps I’m wrong in that—but I am happy that the study refutes the idea that kids who read comics don’t or won’t read other materials. “The research shows that boys who read comics also read more text-based material and report more reading enjoyment than boys who don’t read comics….”
And yes, there is something very appealing about comics, even the ones not written so well. My son’s Arabic teacher sent home Goha-themed comics last year; you’ve never seen him devour the assigned Arabic texts like he wanted to read and explore that comic.
The end of the Sun article gets into how we define reading. The head of a boys-only school in Ottawa asserts that reading online is reading (isn’t it?), in which case Egyptians do a lot more reading than is generally reported. But in what ways does reading online help us “follow a sequence of events, interpret symbols, predict what will happen next and connect narratives to [our] own experiences”—key skills in reading and life?
Well, probably not as much as a good comic.