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Hot Comics: Akin to Facebook?

The much that’s being made of Internet communications lately (Facebook “families” proliferating like crazy, “tweets” emanating from Iran) has reminded me of something I loved as a kid – comic books with their blips of word and image. And that has brought to mind an after-school project I’ve been following because it, too, appears able to cross all kinds of “borders” in inspiring a population whose multiple needs our clients often seek to address. Eight years ago Michael Bitz launched his first comic book club in an elementary school in Queens, believing the way to get kids really engaged in reading and writing is to use their own media. Since then his project has spread to schools across the country, as well as to older grades. Indeed, Harvard Education Press has now published Manga High: Literacy, Identity, and Coming of Age in an Urban High School, based on a four-year study Bitz, a research associate at Columbia Teachers College, did in Manhattan, where students at Martin Luther King, Jr. High School have taken up the Japanese version of comics or “manga.” Not only have the students learned how to break through the learning inertia that can bog you down in your teens and become adept at transforming their experience into skillful visual and verbal narratives that convey real meaning and fun, they have also become engrossed in all things Japanese. The influences that foster revolution come in many guises.

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