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The Baltimore Sun

What's so funny about teaching children to read with comic books? Nothing at all, apparently. In fact, comic books are being used with some students as an alternative pathway to literacy by teachers across the country.

Educators are discovering the colorful medium's potential for stimulating intellectual growth and expression among at-risk students at urban schools. Proponents of comic book use say students who are otherwise intimidated by pages swimming with text get hooked on reading.

The Comic Book Project at Columbia University, which began six years ago, encourages students to create their own comic strips.

The process of writing original stories triggers a fascination with words among students who otherwise might fall between the cracks. To make comic strips, students must integrate words and visuals in a dynamic sequence of panels that advance stories they invent.

In the 2005-2006 school year, teachers at eight Maryland schools used Disney cartoons in a research project sponsored by the University of Maryland. The Comics in the Classroom program was a big hit with teachers and students in Baltimore. Disney Publishing Worldwide and Diamond Comic Distributors have overhauled the curriculum since then and invited 200 teachers to participate in the next wave of program evaluations.

Suddenly, there is a lot going on at the intersection of comic books and education. The once-lowly literary form has come a long way since students were forced to hide their comic books in desks and backpacks.

- Toledo (Ohio) Blade

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