Read Comic Books to Improve Your Reading Skills

Comic books are good for you! Really, it’s true. Take a break, read a comic … improve your reading.

image of woman reading, by Gerald_G from openclipart.org

Stephen Krashen, a well-known education researcher, has said that comic books and other “light” reading can be an important part of learning to read at an academic level. His book The Power of Reading summarizes research showing that comic books contain a high number of of unusual and academic vocabulary words, that comic book readers tend to be better overall readers, and that, essentially, all reading is educational reading.

You can get started reading these for free. Daily Bits has posted links and short descriptions for 17 free online English-language graphic novels (comic books). These graphic novels are aimed at a variety of audiences. Some of them, such as Fables, NYC2123, Crossing Midnight, Deadman, Y: The Last Man, The Sandman, DMZ and Fell, are aimed at readers who are 18 years old or older (however, Salamander Dream is for all ages).

Wowio’s Comic Books and Graphic Novels section has quite a few legal, free comic books and graphic novels. You’ll have to register to use Wowio, and they require you to prove your identity using a photo ID, credit card, or “non-anonymous” e-mail address (such as a school e-mail address). I haven’t used this site, so I hope that if you try it, you’ll let me know what you think.

If you are interested in reading more graphic novels and you live in the US or Canada, go to your local library. In the last few years, libraries have been increasing the number of comic books, graphic novels, and manga on the shelves. Most libraries have people on the staff who love to read that kind of thing. They’ll be able to give you recommendations.

You can also check out the Comics in English section of the Readable Blog Bookstore (those, of course, aren’t free). If you have any English-language comic books or graphic novels that you would like to recommend to other English learners, please leave me a comment.

8 thoughts on “Read Comic Books to Improve Your Reading Skills”

  1. Hi Clarissa,

    Thanks for posting this very practical suggestion for the encouragement of pleasure reading. I too am a big fan of the graphic novel–I’ll be the first to admit that comic book reading–at least, in my case–lead to reading bigger, more important canonical works of literature. I was curious to fill in the “backstory” details for things only alluded to in comic book narratives. I also read comic books in other languages when I was overseas to practice reading the language. It was simply, more fun than reading the newspaper when I was trying to learn.

    If it’s okay with you, I’d like to plug this article for you on my own web log. I think others in the field might benefit from this.

    Keep up the good work!

    Lee
    http://www.english-blog.com

  2. Professor Stephen Krashen cited “eminent writers and thinkers” to claim that reading comic book can help improve reading. Are there other research that proves it? Citations will be appreciated.

    Thanks.

    Kurt

  3. Thanks, Lee; I keep meaning to follow up with you ….

    Kurt, have you checked the specific references in _The Power of Reading_? (Second edition, not the first one.) I thought there were some specific studies cited, in addition to anecdotal evidence. You might also check the introductory sections of _Going Graphic_, by Stephen Cary.

    I’m not at home right now, so I don’t have these books available. A quick search of scholar.google.com brings up several potentially interesting papers of varying relevance, including some of Krashen’s actual research studies:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?num=20&hl=en&lr=&safe=off&cluster=16563090010189650526
    http://sdkrashen.com/articles/comicbook/comicbook.pdf
    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/tesol/tq/2004/00000038/00000002/art00002
    http://direct.bl.uk/bld/PlaceOrder.do?UIN=215454680&ETOC=RN&from=searchengine
    http://www.reading.org/publications/journals/rt/v61/i4/abstracts/RT-61-4_Ranker.html
    http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED141797&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED141797
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?num=20&hl=en&lr=&safe=off&client=firefox-a&cluster=1698822951350127953
    etc., etc. You can probably find more.

    Most of the research that has been done focuses on native speakers of English who are reluctant readers, and/or on children living in the US. Sometimes we have to extrapolate based on other studies of “light reading” (another useful search phrase), or work backwards from the connection between reading comic books and being a good reader.

    I’d love to do some research on teaching adult English learners (in ESL or EFL situations), but I don’t have that kind of access right now.

  4. I make webcomics that are educational and funny. My main cartoon is called Rebusquest. About a magic land where rebus puzzles are a way of life. That way, kids can enjoy a story while learning puzzle solving skills.

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