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February 1, 2009

When Educators and Graphic Novels Unite

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I meant to blog about this days ago, but time got away from me. Just wanted to say congratulations to the folks who put on the Graphica in Education conference at Fordham University this past weekend. That includes Diamond Book Distributors, Random House Academic Marketing, and ViziPress, as well as all the speakers, panelists, and presenters. I particularly enjoyed the session “Sequential Art, Writing, and Self: From Image to Text and Back Again.” It was held by Michael Gianfrancesco, a high-school English teacher in Rhode Island, and Jenn Cook, a professor at Rhode Island College. It was fascinating to see how comics were not only gaining acceptance from teachers (something that would have been unfathomable when I was in school) but also being successfully used as a great tool for education.

It’s fun to see and hear the examples of how students, and young readers in general, respond to the comics format. The panel on “The Power of Graphica” was another highlight. Dr. Michael Bitz (founder of The Comic Book Project) and Jimmy Gownley (creator of the excellent Amelia Rules! series) appeared, with Diamond’s John Shableski moderating.

Author Jon Scieszka finished the day with a great and inspirational talk. Jon’s been a major proponent for getting young people, particularly boys and young men, to read, and he’s done wonderful work in that regard. I’m always impressed by him and his ability to reach readers. Check out Jon’s site guysread.com for more on what he does.

I left the seminar feeling very impressed by this one-day event. It was especially great to meet so many teachers and librarians throughout the day and get to see their excitement for comics and how they can be used to reach kids. That gives me great hope for the future of comics.