November 22, 2014

Elyria
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Free comic book program encourages literacy

Students who love comic books may get lucky and find one or two teachers who allow them to indulge in the medium in the classroom.

But to find an entire school district — from the superintendent to a physical education teacher — that embraces the short stories as a part of childhood literacy? Some would say that is unheard of in today’s world of standardized tests and rigorous curriculum.

Yet for 15 minutes Monday, math, science and social studies were pushed aside at every Elyria school as students were handed a free comic book and told to delve into the life of G-Man, a superhero for all ages who gains the powers of super strength, super endurance and flight when he wears a magic cape. Students were allowed to read the story, titled “Coming Home,” with no sideways glances from teachers.

The free comics came to students because of a partnership between the Elyria Rotary Club, the Elyria Comic Book Initiative and Elyria Schools. Rotary funded the project through its literacy budget and also supported the Elyria Comic Book Initiative to provide Elyria students with programming throughout the year that lets them create their own comic books.

For students like 13-year-old Jason Truxall, a seventh-grader at Eastern Heights Middle School, the 15 minutes was time well spent.

“I like comics because they are short, you can read them fast and there are a lot of funny ones,” Jason said.

Some of his favorites include those featuring Charlie Brown and Batman.

“And now I think I will read ‘G-Man’ because I like this one,” he said.

“G-Man” was created by cartoonist Chris Giarrusso and is published by Image Comics of Berkeley, Calif.

“Graphic novels are a very important genre that a lot of kids love to read, and I think this fits right into that,” said Ann Schloss, the district’s director of academic services. “It matches the new common-core standards. But for us, the main point of this project is to get students involved in reading both in school and for enjoyment out of schools.”

Monday’s project was four years in the making. It started when Schloss was approached by Ken Glanc, president of the Elyria Comic Book Initiative. He saw comics as an excellent way to get excited about reading.

“They are simple, easy to read and engaging,” Glanc said. “Comic books are a different media that offer an easy entry point to literacy.”

From that point, Glanc said students learn the elements of storytelling in a way that is fun.

Schloss said research shows that the more children read the more successful they will be academically and beyond. With that in mind, she said educators in Elyria operate with the goal of getting books into the hands of kids as often as possible.

To complete the day, which was dubbed Super Heroes Day at Eastern Heights, physical education teacher Heather Baker got into the comic book spirit by donning a black suit adorned with green question marks. It was Baker’s take on the Riddler, an enemy of Batman.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.