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Use of Comics for Advancing Literary Skills

Literature Review.
The popularity of comic books and graphic novels is on the rise and have moved from the margins into mainstream culture. When comics were at their most popular in the 1950s, they were considered to be popular culture, at best and dangerous influence on the youth, at the worst. Children who read comic books are not really reading; they are simply looking at pictures as a way to avoid engaging in the complex processes of learning how to read (Jacobs, 2007). Comic books, graphic novels are different types of comics whose definition has been blurred by artists over time and is now a term that is used interchangeably. Comic books like The X-men, The Avengers, and manga like Fullmetal Alchemist, are considered to be some of the greatest comics of all time. Rich in complex stories, loveable characters, and breathtaking artwork, these comic books were once the guilty pleasures of children everywhere. They were smuggled into classrooms and read discreetly behind textbooks or hidden underneath notebooks. With the newfound recognition of comics as literary media, educators are now grasping at the genre to advance literary understanding in students. The graphic novels are an accessible le medium for all students, particularly for struggling students, as the format is light on text and heavy on images (Hughes and Morrison, 2014). This research paper explores the idea of how comic books can help advance literary skills in a student. How do they aid students in the understanding of different languages and cultures with interesting stories and characters? How can multimedia design improve the ‘comic book experience’ while keeping the essence of a comic book intact?
To advance literary learning and understanding.
Students have come to dread the compulsory reading lists that are now part of the school curriculum, in part because of the complex classical literature that are difficult to comprehend. A few educators believe that the solution is to introduce comic books as reading material. (Versaci, 2001) says that the goal is to encourage students to question what constitutes as literary merit by defining reasonable parameters by which to judge creative work, thus helping students to become active, critical and engaged readers. Comics have a bad reputation for being “disposable” and not real “literature” (Hermes, 1995). While they deviate from the more “traditional” forms of literature, they have proven to be more effective, comic books are able to quite literally “put a human face” on a given subject (Versaci, 2001). By blurring the differentiation between text and illustrations, comic books require significant concentration and participation by the readers. The personification of abstract thoughts allows students to empathize with characters in personal and unique ways. Detailed and intricate artwork, illustrations of the world around us, representation of diverse worlds, stylization of the words and use of onomatopoeia for literary effect stimulates imagination and critical thinking. We are better able to “hear” the narrator’s voice because we can see what words are emphasized by the bold lettering, and we associate particular kinds of voices with the narrative voice, especially emphasized by the shape of the text boxes (Jacobs, 2001). Because their storylines are generally action-oriented, graphic novels and comics are particularly effective in keeping student interest high (Ward, Terrell,2011).
Young readers are attracted to the timeliness of comic books as their monthly publication allows their creators to react more swiftly to social and cultural changes than is possible for films or trade books. Thus, readers often feel as though what they are reading is cutting edge, making them cognizant of popular culture (Ward, Terrell. 2011). Aside from engagement, comic books also help to develop much needed analytical and critical thinking skills (Versaci, 2001).
Concerns of fictional violence
One of the main concerns of bringing comics into school curriculum is the widespread portrayal of fictional violence. While comics such as “The Amazing Spiderman” and “The Avengers” offers fascinating reading material, they also depict violence and battles between characters. (Buckingham 1996) has noted that, we often underestimate children’s ability to separate fictional violence portrayed in popular media from real violence. Therefore, there need not be a direct connection between reading texts with fictional violence and a sanctioning of real-world violence, especially when critical reading skills are used to mediate the relationship between the two. (Ranker,2007)
Understanding language and culture
Comics are a great way to explore different cultures and ideas. What constitutes as a good piece of literature is work that takes its audience by surprise. It is work that incorporates the author’s ideas, experiences, vision, dreams, and tragedies that remains unique to the author but is open to be experienced by all who read his work. Comic books take this experience a step further by incorporating imagery and visual cues to the reader experience. When masterfully created, they reveal our lives to us, and in doing so they help us to gain some insight into the world around us in surprising ways (Versaci, 2001).
Comics are made all around the world and are heavily influenced by its culture, people and history. The American comics of “Archie” and “Jughead”, to the French comics of “The Adventures of Tintin”, to the popular subculture of Japanese manga graphic novels, are just some of the examples that possess a plethora of knowledge and facilitate in learning about diversity and inclusion. Graphic novels have been excellent classroom tools with which to build cultural awareness and with which to explore difficult social, political and economic issues (Hughes and Morrison, 2014). Educators are cautious about one genre of graphic novels in particular, manga, possibly due to the fact that it raises many cultural and linguistic barriers. To many first-timers, it may be overwhelming. Manga has proven to be useful in teaching neurotypical and neurodivergent youngsters. Manga can be incorporated into a
secondary English curriculum as independent reading, manga can raise interesting questions
of translation, call sociocultural norms into question, and offer new takes on old mythologies. Its diversity of genres assures that every reader can find an appealing series, while simultaneously prompting students to think critically about genre conventions and audience expectations (Rozema, 2015).
Digitization of comic books
At the turn of the century, the gross digitization of print media began. Artists and authors began publishing their work online, which opened up a number of possibilities for artists. There was now a way to combine digital media and print media.
Artists began creating artwork and using software for the layout of comic books. This revolutionized the creative process and the distribution of books. Not only has the digital artwork used in digitally published comics become dynamic and 3D, but the new format used to create them will allow readers to manipulate and decide the outcome of the story.
One new format, D2, includes sound effects, moving images and does not require the user to ‘turn the page’, but rather, tap on the screen of their tablet or smartphone, to view the next part of the story. The D2 format will be used to publish ‘Batman ’66’, created by Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case (Digital meets culture, 2013). Music for graphic novels and comics needs to be as rubbery, as versatile and as unpredictable as the medium of comics itself. It must combine the invention of the film score composer with the shape-shifting of the comics/ graphic artist (Johnston,2016).
Students often find traditional literary works, like novels, to limit their abilities to share and express thoughts and knowledge. The introduction of comic books as an alternative can help in dissolving barriers and motivate students in participation in classroom learning. Graphic novels provided segues for the students to express “their views and ideas in unique ways” using a combination of image and text (Hughes and Morrison, 2014). Comics have also proven to be a stepping stone for students who have difficulty learning, and has improved not only their ability to read but also in deeper understating of literature, culture, and language. Graphic novels are an engaging and popular form, and undoubtedly this has made the learning process that much more meaningful for the students. Graphic novelist Svetlana Chmakova explains the power of the graphic novel to resonate with readers by using the example of an author “rendering a charged silent moment that speaks volumes about the character’s inner state just through their moven1ents. If done right, a scene like that can hit home deeper than a text paragraph ever could.” (Hughes and Morrison, 2014).
With digital media now taking over, it is only a matter of time that comic books are incorporated into multi-media, to make the experience more engaging and enthralling. The essence of the comic book consists of two things, beautiful artwork, and a spectacular story. While keeping this in mind it is possible to revolutionize comic books, without crossing the border over to animated motion pictures.
Buckingham, D. “Moving images: Understanding children’s emotional responses to television.” (1996). Manchester, England:Manchester University Press
Hermes. “Drawing the line: A new wave of censorship hits comics” Utne Reader (November – December 1995): 22-24DIGITAL MEETS CULTURE Official registered magazine. Digital comics go interactive: Changing the way readers interact with traditional story-telling. Posted on: 7 June 2013 (
Hughes, Janette, and Laura Morrison. “The Evolution of Teaching with Graphic Novels.” Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 6, no. 2 (2014): 116-27.
Jacobs, Dale. “More Than Words: Comics as a Means of Teaching Multiple Literacies.” English Journal 96, no. 3 (2007): 19-25.
Johnston, Phillip. “Wordless! Music for Comics and Graphic Novels Turns Time into Space (and Back Again).” Southerly 76, no. 1 (2016): 95-110.
Ranker, Jason. “Using Comic Books as Read-alouds: Insights on Reading Instruction from an English as a Second Language Classroom: Using Comic Books to Teach Lessons about Text Helps Young English-language Learners with Reading and Writing.(Report).” The Reading Teacher 61, no. 4 (2007): 296-305.
Rozema, Robert. “Manga and the Autistic Mind.” 105, no. 1 (2015): 60-68.
Versaci, Rocco. “How Comic Books Can Change the Way Our Students See Literature: One Teacher’s Perspective.” English Journal 91, no. 2 (2001): 61-67.
Ward, Barbara, and Terrell Young. “Reading Graphically: Comics and Graphic Novels for Readers from Kindergarten through High School.” Reading Horizons 50, no. 4 (2011): 283-96.

Significant Disproportionality: Concerns and Implications in Educational Practice

I am a certified teacher in Canada who has been working in the field of education for over 26 years. I have taught secondary math and science in a regular education classroom, but in my current role, I am working as a senior school learning support teacher in the province of B.C.
Significant Disproportionality: Concerns and Implications in Educational Practice
Literature Review
Early identification and well-developed individualized support are imperative for students with disabilities in order to reach their full potential. However, if a child is placed into special education services or disciplined without understanding their needs, the outcome of these actions not only affect a child’s academic opportunity but there is a higher probability for detrimental long-term impact on their social-emotional wellbeing. For minority students in the United States, disproportionality can result in the under or over-identification, incorrect placement, or improper disciplinary actions of students with disabilities within a local education authority (LEA) (U.S. Department of Education, 2017). Disproportionality illuminates significant concerns that beg for ongoing monitoring by each state education agency (SEA). Data collected at the LEA level ensures proper and adequate identification of students without over or underrepresentation of individuals within differing genders, ethnicities, and race.
Outlined by the U.S. Department of Education’s Dear Colleague Letter:Preventing Racial Discrimination in Special Education (2016b), both over and under-identification are concerns that directly result in disproportionality when discrimination based on race, colour, or ethnicity. Such representation violates a student’s rights to Title VI obligations and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 impeding and limiting their access to educational opportunities that are equitable and just (U.S. Department of Education, 2016b). Under-identification occurs when a student with a disability or behavioural concern is not appropriately identified as a student who requires disability services (U.S. Department of Education, 2016b). By contrast, over-identification results when a student is incorrectly or inappropriately determined to have a disability or behavioural concern, and they are provided with disability services (U.S. Department of Education, 2016b). Gender, ethnicity, and race create further complication to the identification process resulting in significant disproportionality amongst certain individuals of smaller populations within a school setting.
In consensus with the reported data contained in the U.S. Department of Education’s 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection: A First look (2016a)and Civil Rights Data Collection Data Snapshot; School discipline (2014), black or African American students are 1.4 times more likely to receive special education services in a separate setting, they are over twice as likely to be identified with a disability, and are two times likely to be identified as having an emotional disturbance. Moreover, students with disabilities, in general, are more than twice likely to receive disciplinary actions that result in either suspension or expulsion beginning at the pre-school level (U.S. Department of Education, 2014).
Additional concerns lie in how individuals with certain disability groups fit into the ethnic and race break down of disproportionality. As maintained by the U.S. Department of Education (2017), each state education agency (SEA) is tasked with having local education authorities (LEA) determine and monitor the significance of race and ethnicity when it comes to identifying children as having a disability, and use a standardized approach when determining over or under-identification at a district and school level. The information contained in the U.S. Department of Education’s IDEA Part B Regulations (2017) promotes the creation of national uniformity when it comes to equity in educational practice and opportunity. However, the outlined regulations still permit enough flexibility at the state level to apply risk ratios that protect individuals in the LEA from the likelihood of misidentification when compared to the outcomes of the larger group (U.S. Department of Education, 2017). The ability to be tractable allows states and local educational authorities to reflect exceptional circumstances that are unique to their state while addressing small populations within the larger group. Furthermore, students with disabilities and even preschool-aged students can now be served by comprehensive, coordinated early intervening services (CEIS) funding using 15% of the money from IDEA Part B in an attempt to retract significant disproportionality within the LRE (U.S. Department of Education, 2017).
Implications in Practice
For individuals with autism, there is an inherent at-risk for being disproportionately represented given the defining features of the developmental disability itself; this risk is significantly pronounced if they are also a minority and male. The implications of significant disproportionality on educational practice illuminates the importance of addressing contributing factors such as the need for evidence-based instruction that is steeped in research, establishing a system for identification and disciplinary removals of students, and considering how students who are within the minority group are evaluated and screened (U.S. Department of Education, 2017). Correspondingly, it is indispensable to include thoughtful collaboration with vital stakeholders regarding student program placement while having sensitivity towards cultural, social-economic, and linguistic differences. At the local level, schools and LEAs can address significant disproportionalities by knowing what their focus should be. The U.S. Department of Education (2014) identified that, “students of certain racial or ethnic groups and [those with] disabilities are disciplined at far higher rates than that of peers, beginning in preschool.” This means that schools and LREs could revisit their discipline policies and implement positive behaviour intervention and supports that cultivates school climate and does not automatically result in the suspension or expulsion of the student.
Comparatively, excluded students lose significant instructional time when prevented from attending school and removed from educational programming. For individuals who are on the spectrum and fall into this example of discipline disproportionality, they may be incorrectly and unfairly disciplined, lose out on vital educational opportunities that impact equitability and opportunity over the long term. Public school districts are obligated to provide equitable educational opportunities to all students, independent of race, ethnicity, gender, or ability (U.S. Department of Education, 2014).
Finally, the information contained in the IDEA Part B Regulations (U.S. Department of Education, 2017) means that comprehensive, coordinated early intervening services (CEIS) funds can be used with significantly disproportionate groups of individuals, opening up the door to programming and supports that better serve individuals with and without disabilities. The comprehensive CEIS funds could address the need for early screening, assessment, and intervention, which may be identified as primary factors contributing to the resulting disproportionality within the LRE. This availability of funding could also target the need for culturally sensitive assessment practices and improve family education and awareness about the early signs of autism. In turn, children who are Hispanic or black and African American, according to the would benefit from earlier intensive interventions thus closing the gap for the average age of diagnosis which is 1.4 years later than their non-white peers and significantly improving a child’s cognitive and language outcomes (McPheeters, Weitlauf, Vehorn, Taylor, Sathe, Krishnaswami, et al., 2016). Conversely, for individuals already diagnosed with autism, this might mean that money is available to improve current services and be used for professional development so that teachers are better equipped to address the needs of individuals with ASD. The ear-marked funding could also give way to providing more universal screening opportunities, conducting FBAs, creating intervention plans that target behaviour earlier and give the prospect to develop positive behaviour supports that offset significant disproportionality within this minority group (Kansas State Department of Education, 2019).

Kansas State Department of Education. (2019, August). KSDE Frequently asked questions on significant disproportionality. Retrieved from
McPheeters, M. L., Weitlauf, A., Vehorn, A., Taylor, C., Sathe, N. A., Krishnaswami, S., et al. (2016). Screening for autism spectrum disorder in young children: A systematic evidence review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Retrieved from
U.S. Department of Education. (2014, March). Civil rights data collection data snapshot; School discipline. Office for Civil Rights. Retrieved from
U.S. Department of Education. (2016a, October 28). 2013-2014 Civil rights data collection a first look. Office for Civil Rights. Retrieved from
U.S. Department of Education. (2016b, December 12). Dear colleague letter: Preventing racial discrimination in special education. Office for Civil Rights. Retrieved from
U.S. Department of Education. (2017, March). IDEA part b regulations significant disproportionality equity in IDEA. Office of Special Education. Retrieved from