“An after-school comics class can give young people the opportunity to enhance, develop, and strengthen the skills they learn in school while engaging them in various kinds of literacy work” (Khurana, page 2).
I was drawn to Sarita Khurana’s piece, So You Want to be a Superhero? because it introduces a very interesting direction that I could take my comic and digital story telling inquiries in – the development an after-school program, hosed in an virtual learning environment focused on literacy development thought the digital comic medium. I had been thinking about comics with an eye to my classroom instruction but there seems to be a freedom in taking comics out of the classroom. An after-school program generality does not have the same lofty academic expectations then those in a classroom and so it should be easier to convincing the powers be of the value of comics. To be seen as a success the program just needs to be popular with students and provide the opportunity to practice skills learned in school. A virtual comic book club could be successful in both ways and I think that critics with low exceptions would be surprised by high leaves of academic rigor and higher level thinking skills supported by such a program. Which is the same point that Khurana is making about the in-person comic production class she describes at School of the Future in New York City, that she describes in the article.
The majority of Khurana’s article focuses on the ways comic production in the after-school program support children’s development. There are two strong reasons to support student development with comics in this article that resonate with me. First students had a chance to practice and apply the writing skills needed to develop both character and story arcs (p5). Students must understand how their character’s motivations, how characters act on those motivation, and how character actions move the story’s plot. Second the development of comic characters allowed young adults to experiment with adult social roles and decision making (p8), which is a healthy part of human social development.
I see the value in an after-school program the focuses on the production of comic for the reasons Khurana outlines but I would personally develop a program that focused more on the reading of comics and using comics to develop reading comprehension. Though Khurana does not directly speak to using comics to develop reading comprehension a personal account of how a student started reading comics is included which demonstrates the power of comics to bridge student interests and reading. “When I asked Hassan how long he’d been reading comics, he said that he’d been into comics since he was five: “Yeah, I used to play lots of video games and my dad wanted me to learn to read so he gave me comic books to read like the original Batman and Superman.… That helped me be more interested in reading and give it a try” (p6).
I am very happy to have found this work by Khurana. It has giving me a lot to think about with the direction of my digital comic query. But mostly it has given me ammunition for my argument of why comics and graphic novels have a place in New Literacy education.