Monday, February 26, 2007

Academy Awards Did Not Hinder My Math Mojo

Took a risk last night staying up late for the Academy Awards. I had a test this morning. Not just any test but a test in mathematics, which is not my strongest subject. Unlike last semester when I struggled to internalize all of my mathematics concepts (rather than just blindly memorizing them) this semester makes more sense to me. This course is Geometry and I have a more innate understanding of the concepts in Geometry than I did in my regular math class. I am taking the same teacher for both courses.

So this morning, I woke up thinking about math. This time, rather than being upset about it, I woke up quizzing myself and knowing the answers right off the bat. That, my friends, is a good feeling. I have never, ever felt that about a mathematics test. The difference? The teacher. I have an exceptional instructor who cares more about my learning, internalizing, the information rather than just memorizing it like a lemming. His caring about my math knowledge makes all the difference in the world. He’s hard, mind you. He is considered the hardest instructors mostly because he expects you to learn a lot of information and be able to articulate the answer beyond just putting down an answer. Not only do we show our work, but we explain it in prose form. Beyond that, he actually cares about my learning. He wants me, FAT JACK, to make an A in his class and he gets excited when I push down my previous mathematical barriers. The right teacher makes all the difference.

I am not so scared of math any longer. That does not mean that I don’t still struggle with math. I do, but I am not as intimidated by it. I’m still poor at mental math, but I know how to work on that and I expect to do so between now and when I begin teaching. I also hope to be able to help my students the way he has helped me. Not only am I learning mathematics, but I don’t hate it anymore.

I made my study guide. I drove to MSU to meet with my study group on Friday. I did my homework and asked questions in class. So when it came to hosting the Academy Awards party last night, I did so without compromising my schooling and without stressing out about it. I don’t have my grade back yet, but I don’t really care about that. I knew the information. Even if I made a B because of silly mistakes, the grade really isn’t the issue. I know the material backwards and forwards and I believe I could express that knowledge to others. I’m actually enjoying a math class for once. That is a huge stride from this former math hater and poor arithmetic performer.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

INCONCEIVABLE for Oscar Night Information

Sophie poses with the FAT JACK
Oscar, given to the winner of the
most winner predicted.

Check out my other blog, INCONCEIVABLE for all your Oscar night information.

Disability Rally Day 2007

This is me and my wife, Kathy, at the 2006
Missouri Disability Rally in Jefferson City.
There were over 1,000 people with disabilities
and family members at the rally last year.

There are so many problems with our political system. One of the most serious problems in Missouri includes the Republican-designed cuts of the Medicaid system. The list of aggregious cuts are too numerous to put in one blog post. One local Blogger, however, has been focusing on the problems with the cuts to the Medicaid program. She is thinking many things and posting them for all to see.

One way that you can get involved with the serious violations against persons with disabilities and the poor is to attend the statewide Disability Rally Day in Jefferson City. This is an annual event started several years ago. When I worked as the director of a disability agency, I coordinated Springfield’s participation.

After I left, The Network took up the coordination of the cause. They had always been an integral part of the event and now they are the lead agency for the Ozarks area. The event typically will have 1,000-1,500 participants with disabilities and their families at the Capital, knowing on doors, attending speeches and speaking directly with legislators.

The Network will be offering transportation from Springfield to Jefferson City and back, including limited wheelchair accessible placement. This is an amazing event and will open your eyes to the voting power of persons with disabilities. You can contact The Network at 417-895-7464.

Missouri Disability Rally 2007
March 28

The Springfield bus will leave at 7 a.m. and return at 7 p.m.

The Jellybean Conspiracy

Before my daughter was born, there were three kids who lived with us for several months. Their parents were having issues, many issues, and there were unable to care for them, so we offered for them to live with us until the parental problems could be resolved. They got divorced and moved far away from one another.

Two of those kids have turned into very creative teenagers who were in Marshfield High School’s performance of The Jellybean Conspiracy, which incidentally has received a lot of local publicity. The third kid is in Air Force boot camp. The performance is about diversity and how each of us are like jellybeans, in that they are different colors and tastes, but they are still all jellybeans. The production is part musical performance art and part play – a very interesting thing to watch.

What makes this performance so interesting, and diverse at its own core, is that it makes use of students with disabilities. The school recruits the students with Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities from its student body to be performers with essential speaking parts.

There were a few problems with the script from both a disability advocacy and a writing point of view, but I’ll forego those because I don’t want to miss the point of the performance. The students, those with and without disabilities, did a fantastic job and I was impressed.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Academy Awards on Sunday

Sunday night is the Academy Awards, an event that our family never misses. My wife and I have been watching the Oscars for years and we have hosted an Academy Awards Party for the past several years. Nothing fancy mind you. We don’t get fancied up and we don’t come in costume either, although we have entertained both ideas seriously. We just have a small group of movie-loving friends over to watch the show.

This year snuck up on us as my wife and daughter were sick all last week and I just lost track of time. So today I am rushing around a bit to get things ready. I didn’t even get to send out real invitations this year; I just sent out emails. Oh well.

I hope to post some interesting tidbits about the event as the night unfolds on my movie blog, INCONCEIVABLE. So check back that night to see what’s happening.

I don’t know how you could not have already known, but just in case you didn’t, the host for this year’s event is Ellen DeGeneres. I suspect she will be very funny and a great host. She promises to give all kinds of inside, backstage gossip on her show the next day.

Click to download a printable Oscar ballot.
Click to see Oscars featured movie quotes of all time.

Fat Jack Incognito on American Idol

My daughter has devised a conspiracy theory all on her own: I am secretly Chris Sligh, one of the 24 finalists on the hit television powerhouse that is American Idol. She told this to my wife this past week as they were curled up in the chair watching the singers do their thing. Although to hear them tell it, the boys did quite poorly this last week.

I have night classes on American Idol nights. I leave the house with backpack in tow and hump off to class at MSU. Sophie has concocted this notion that I am not really going to class at night. In actuality, I am packing my clothes and a curly brown wig and heading off to Hollywood to compete.

Quite a hypothesis from a 6-year-old. I am thankful that she thinks I am as skinny as chubby boy Sligh. I hope she never loses that perception. My wife could not wait to tell that bit of good news.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Comics In My Classroom: Clan Apis

FORMAT: Paperback, collecting all five comic issues
PUBLISHER: Active Synapse
GENRE: Biological Fiction

The lifecycle of the bee

This story is about Nyuki, a bee, who is born a larva and lives her life according to the hive rules. Her older sister, Dvorah, is a friend who helps her learn what she needs to know of bee life. The story begins as Nyuki is a bee larva and takes us through her entire life cycle.

Nyuki: The main character
Dvorah: Nyuki’s sister
Sisyphus: A dung beetle
Bloomington: The flower

My Rating: 8 and older preferred
My Recommended Target Age: 10-15
Comics in the Forth grade and above

This is a science comic, first and foremost. It is intended to be used as an informational book about the life of bees. Life, death and mating is a part of the life cycle and is not dumbed down or scrubbed from the script just because it may be sad. These topics are addressed in an appropriate and scientific way to discuss bees.

Clan Apis (Latin for bees) is the story of the birth, life and death of bees, specifically the life cycle of Nyuki (Swahili for bee). While the story is anthropomorphic, that is the characters have some human qualities such as speaking English and experiencing emotions, the story is not allegorical to human life. It is, aside from speaking and feeling emotions, strictly an informational book about bees and their habits and behaviors. They do not put on clothes or dream of a more human existence outside the hive. The plants and animals in this story act as plants and animals actually behave.

Author Jay Hosler, who is a neurobiologist who studies olfactory processes in honey bees, has stuffed all kinds of interesting bee information into the story, giving it depth and academic credibility. We learn about the hive, how the bees construct the hive, why it is designed the way it is, and about the different roles that bees assume in the hive. We understand pheromones and learn about how honey is made. This is a fantastic scientific story that is excitedly written to teach children without boring them, making the experience meaningful and long lasting.

Also illustrated by Jay Hosler, the artwork is the weakest aspect of the book, if indeed there is a weakness at all. The story is illustrated with high contrast, black and white drawings. The illustrations could be clearer at times, especially if color were used, to make distinctions between different bees very clear. However, most of the time, those distinctions are clear. The paper used, is a decent quality matte paper.

This book is right at home in the classroom. The story allows a teacher to discuss biology in general, and bee behavior specifically, and to address science on many levels, depending on the ability of the classroom. Everything about bee life is addressed in the book including information on why the honeycomb is built with a 13 percent slope, what a bee dance means, and how the queen bee makes sure no other females can reproduce. Student can be engaged in low level and high level thinking skills based on this book.

There are some fancy vocabulary words in the book; the author does not shy away from offering complex ideas into the story. I think most students will appreciate a book that does not talk down to them and most teachers will enjoy that the book challenges, but doesn’t overtax the students.

You can get a rundown of the information contained in each chapter of Clan Apis by clicking here.

Jay Hosler is a neurobiologist who studies the olfactory processes of honey bees. He is also an Assistant Professor of Biology at Juniata College. If you wish to use his book Clan Apis or his other work “The Sandwalk Adventures: An Adventure in Evolution”, in your classroom you can contact him at:

Jay Hosler
1082 Von Liebig Center for Science
Juniata College
Huntington, PA 16652

He is currently working on other projects such as “The Age of Elytra” a comic about the beetles as well as “Optical Allusions”, a science comic book that is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Visit the Clan Apis review at Comics In The

Highly Recommended
I cannot recommend this book enough. It is a high quality science graphic novel that is amazingly interesting and engaging on numerous levels. It does discuss mating and death as it pertains to a bee’s life, but not in ways that are inappropriate for children. This comic, unlike many others, is a science book that also addresses literature requirements.

I would go so far as to say that this is a perfect book to introduce more informational or non-fiction type books into a child’s home library. What a perfect way to help people become less scared of such a fascinating organism.

For more information on using comic books or graphic novels in the classroom, email me at You can also read more at:

Comics in the
News-a-rama Op/Ed Forums (Look for "All Ages Reads" headings)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Comics In My Classroom: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

FORMAT: Reinforced Library Binding (Hardback)
PUBLISHER: Stone Arch Books
COST: $15.37 from

  • Relationships (friendship and mild budding romance)
  • Death
  • Crime
  • Adolescence
  • Rural Living
  • Honesty
  • Secret Keeping
  • Attending School
  • Action-Adventure
  • Racial Stereotypes
  • Greed
  • Deception
  • Betrayal
  • Acceptance

The clever boy, Tom Sawyer, is a precocious child full of trickery and general mischief. He has an active imagination and enjoys childlike adventures and playing tricks on everyone, including his Aunt Polly. His best friend, Huck Finn, lives on his own and the two frequently play together. One night, however, the two witness a murder that leads to some real-life danger-filled adventures. The two must decide whether to keep the secret or risk life and limb to do the right thing and save an innocent man’s life.

  • Tom Sawyer
  • Huck Finn
  • Joe Harper
  • Aunt Polly
  • Injun Joe
  • Muff Potter
  • Doc
  • Becky Thatcher
  • Widow Douglas

My Rating: All Ages
Publisher’s Recommended Reading Level: Grades 2-3
Publisher’s Recommended Interest Level: Grades 5-9

The reading level of the work is low, which is appropriate for young readers and higher-grade reluctant readers. I can see early emerging readers being very interested in this book, as will upper elementary and even middle school students.

This is a retelling of Mark Twain’s famous novel by the same name. This particular adaptation is done in comic book form, reinventing this classic story for a modern young audience. It is very hard to capture the richness of the original novel in just 63 pages; author, M.C. Hall, did it in six chapters: Tom in Trouble, Murder in the Graveyard, A Pirate’s Life, More Trouble for Tom, Treasure, and Lost and Found. The story is rushed a bit and is focused on the action, leaving the character development as a side note. That will leave young readers wondering why the characters do what they do and may even confuse them about what is going on. However, that can lead to good discussion and possibly send a student toward the original work. To that end, the sparseness and speed of the story may serve the graphic adaptation well. I would still argue that the storyteller could have gone into more detail.

Illustrated by Daniel Strickland, this book is in full color with heavy inks. The characters are simply drawn with medium to heavy ink outlines. The coloring is mostly one-dimensional and shading of characters is typically achieved through high contrast, heavy inking rather than through the use of color. The backgrounds, however, are sometimes constructed with color shading. Typically, there are 2-3 panels per page with very little overlay. The illustrator used a minimalist approach with both character and setting. Considering a young audience, the art may be very appropriate. This does not have a grown-up look, making it very appealing to kids. It is obviously meant for children, pre-teens and teens. The construction of the book is very good. It is a hardback edition with high quality glossy pages.

As with any work by Mark Twain, the story is rich and interesting. It leaves open a discussion on many fronts. There are many topics to talk about in the classroom such as examples:
  • Analyzing how and why Tom tricks his friends into doing his chores.
  • Does a good friend trick his or her friends?
  • Comparison of the life between Tom and Huck
  • Pseudo-adoption and acceptance of Huck by Widow Douglas
  • Examination of how greed influences behavior
  • The stereotypes of American Indians
  • Understanding the grief associated with death
  • The harm of keeping secrets
  • Why do kids who like one another sometimes act mean to each other?
  • Should Tom and Huck have told about what they witnessed?
  • How would the fear of being murdered by Injun Joe affect Tom?
This story is very applicable to many students and from it many discussions and writing assignments could present themselves. The setting of the story lends itself to good discussion about rural living and the importance of the Mississippi River to the economy. The cave as a story element could lead to several science projects about caves and the biological organism located therein. One could even do an experiment to explore the importance of whitewashing a fence and what happens to unprotected wood. It might be interesting to discover what animals live in such a rural setting.

Stone Arch Books also publishes other works of fiction as graphic novels: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood, Treasure Island, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Black Beauty.

I would recommend this for any elementary or middle school. It is an excellent way to introduce young children to classic literature without overwhelming them with large amounts of prose. There is only small amounts of reading material to each page, making it pretty easy.

For more information on using comic books or graphic novels in the classroom, email me at You can also read more at:

Comics in the
News-a-rama Op/Ed Forums (Look for "All Ages Reads" headings)

Good Teachers Are Hard To Find

We are truly a diverse and divisive society. In spite of our country’s overall religious convictions our collective soul is defined more by our overindulgence than by the preservation and love of others. We care for the meek, the hungry, the thirsty, the poor in spirit, so long as their need for blessings do not impact our income and inconvenience our own lifestyles. This division is not so clear-cut along career lines or tax brackets. Amazingly enough it is not just the corporate CEO nor rich southern congressman who holds such beliefs, although it is much easier for us to think in such simplistic terms. Evangelical churches, social workers, and special education teachers also cling to the self-indulgent ideology of the bootstrap mentality.

There are nearly 60 students in my graduate level special education class at the university. The large majority of students are middle aged and are currently teaching. One might think that the students would be similarly minded liberals; however, that is not the case. In fact, it appears that may be just the opposite. This particular classroom is a microcosm of the society at large, resulting in a strong prevalent viewpoint that people with disabilities are a strain on our government, society and educational classrooms. Furthermore, these teachers, many of which are special education instructors, advocate for segregated classrooms and fewer services for children with disabilities.

The instructor presented the class with an story from NPR, thanks to the technology in the classroom, about a young man living in Alabama. He was about to turn 22 years old and at the time of the interview, the young man was living at home with his parents and receiving in-home services. In Alabama, a person with disabilities lost all in-home services once he or she turned 22. The only choice for this young man was to move into a nursing home, the only service option provided by the State of Alabama at that time.

The young man had muscular dystrophy, used a wheelchair, had to have a ventilator to breath, could only move two fingers, and he was able to speak on his own. He was angered that his only option was to move into a nursing home. Studies have shown that in-home care is much less expensive than institutional care. Armed with information and a passion, the young man started a grassroots campaign to change the current system. His routinely spoke to lawmakers and news reporters and his campaign became quite well known. According to the NPR report, his advocacy paid off and the system was changed to provide other services to individuals with disabilities.

After the presentation, our professor asked for our responses. A tall, lanky, blond man probably in his late 40’s instantly commented. He stated that he was a special education teacher, and just wondered why all those people just expected the government to take care of them. The government didn’t take care of other 22-year-olds, so why would it take care of the one featured in the NPR news report. He went on to comment that the man in the report did receive government services; he just didn’t like what he got. He wanted more and more, implying that people with disabilities always want more people to just take care of them and live off the government teat. I interrupted him and asked him if he really felt that a nursing home was a viable option for a 22-year-old; he never responded.

I am not shocked over his response. He is not alone in his negative stereotype against persons with disabilities, be they children or adults. However, what I am shocked about, what really concerns me, is that he is a teacher. Specifically, he is a special education teacher who holds strong negative views about people with disabilities. That is not to say that a teacher cannot hold viewpoints that go against the teaching mainstream. On the other hand, I cannot help wondering why a teacher with such a strong bias against persons with disabilities would choose special education as his calling. His chosen profession is incongruent with his worldview.

One might make an argument that an individual’s personal beliefs will not affect his ability to teach a classroom. That may be true in some circumstances, but in the case of a personal bias against a particular group of individuals, that belief system will undoubtedly affect that teacher’s response to his or her students who belong to the aforementioned group. I know of a retired teacher who taught elementary for 33 years. She has a dislike of African Americas and Hispanics, believing that they, as a group, are incapable of higher level learning or proper behavior. They are not bred correctly to learn or succeed in life, according to her. Were I of African American or Hispanic descent, I would not want her to teach my children. Neither would I want this special education teacher instructing my child if she had a disability. I am certain that she would not receive as good an education from him as she would from a special education instructor who held more inclusive philosophies. Of course inclusive also implies that the child with a disability should be in the regular classroom as often as possible. I would speculate that this man would not agree with that philosophy.

So I come to my greater question. Why would someone who holds such beliefs choose special education for his profession? What would cause him to want to work with a population who he views as nothing more than innately lazy, government milking, system suckers? Maybe he is drawn to positions where he has an inordinate amount of control over others, especially when those people may not be able to communicate for themselves. Possibly he was a regular education teacher that made some type of mistake, and his administration, rather than trying to fire a tenured teacher, simply sent him to the land of special education. Many school administrations view special education as a sub-classroom. Perhaps he feels that he is doing the government a service by trying to fix “those” people, who in his view are flawed and lazy? It’s also possible that the school system decided to promote him to the point on incompetence. Or maybe it’s something else.

Effective, caring and empathetic teachers do not come to a child with an instant bias against that person based on disability, sex, or ethnicity. Good teachers don’t view their children as lazy. Good teachers, especially special education teachers, don’t refer to people with disabilities as “those” people. But then again good teachers are hard to find, even in a graduate level special education class.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Kitty Timeshare

Our bedroom, specifically the bottom left corner of our bed, is a piece of timeshare property -- a contract of which we are reminded every morning by our territorial cat, Buddy. He has gotten very used to us getting up every morning and rushing off to work and school, giving him the run of the entire home. Come 7 a.m. he is staking out his claim to his corner of the bed, curling up and defending it with every ounce of his lazy body. Some days I will beat him to it and will sit in his spot while I get dressed. He doesn’t care for that, choosing to stare me out of his timeshare. Eventually I give in and he quickly takes his rightful place. Nights are ours, for the most part. Come morning we are expected to vacate the premises for the duration of the day. If we don’t get up early enough for his liking, then he is sure to find ways to let us know. Among his favorite wake up techniques is the sit and spin. He sneaks up the bed and sits on someone’s chest for a moment then he turns and meanders along the ribcage, then sits again. It’s terribly annoying and makes for difficult breathing.

During vacations and weekends we change our typical routine and try to sleep in. Many times we never leave the house, which is fine with him as long as it’s just over a weekend. If it lasts longer than that, then he becomes very annoyed with us. He finds it disturbing when we keep coming into the bedroom during his timeshare. I would not be a bit surprised to see him file a complaint, if only he had opposable thumbs with which to hold a Uniball Micro.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Comics In My Classroom: Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane

ISSUE: Volume 1 – Super Crush
FORMAT: Digest covering issues 1-5
PUBLISHER: Marvel Comics
COST: $7.99

  • Relationships (friendship and romance)
  • Bullies
  • Adolescence
  • Brief Action-Adventure

Written by Eisner Award-winner Sean McKeever, this is the story of Mary Jane, the long time love interest of Peter Parker. In this volume, collecting issues 1-5, Mary Jane is in a pickle, several pickles actually. She just broke up with her boyfriend and she is in love with Spider-Man. Peter is fawning over here, using his role as algebra tutor to be close to her, which has worked as he has become her new best friend. That has caused problems with Mary Jane’s best girlfriend, Liz. How many best friends can a girl have?

Mary Jane has also decided to try out for the school play and has made enemies of long time drama queen, Lindsay Leighton (although Mary Jane doesn’t know she’s made an enemy) when Mary Jane beats Lindsay out of the title role. That’s just asking for some type of adolescent revenge. Mary Jane gets tired of waiting for Spidey and she chases him down to ask him out, leaving Spider-Parker in the lurch. What does he do, go out with her as his alter ego or decline and hope that his geeky true self can convince her to go on a date. This title is all about drama and the life of an adolescent.

My Rating: 11 and older
Back of the Book: Teen Romance (12 and older)
Publisher’s Website: All Ages
Comics in the 10 and older

There is some discrepancy as to the appropriate age of the reader for this title. The back of the book rates it as a teen romance recommended for ages 12 and older. However, the Marvel website rates it as an All Ages book. Marvel is the publisher mind you. recommends the book for children ages 10 and older. The discrepancies are probably related to the romantic situations of teenagers. The characters are dressed in contemporary styling, but nothing revealing or sexual. The violence is mild and includes typical comic book action. As the story is about Mary Jane and not really Spider-Man, the action is kept to a minimum.

This is a book that will appeal to anyone interested in budding romantic relationships and the troubles caused by being in some form of love or like. This will appeal to both everyone, but I would think that girls would be especially interested.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane is a perfect book to help kids make sense of their friendships, budding interests in the opposite sex, and the wide range of emotions that they are feeling or will be feeling. Characters, just like people in the real world, hide their feelings, are confused by what is going on, and are overwhelmed by their emotions. There is plenty of school drama here for anyone’s liking. The ebb and flow of friendships and the constant change that is the “first best friend” and “second best friend” hierarchy of relationships are all present. Jealousy and envy are also part of the mix, making for an interesting read.

This is not a typical superhero book. Told from Mary Jane’s point of view, and focusing more on her relationships with her many friends and love interest Spidey himself, this is considered a teen romance, thus the name Super Crush.

Illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa, this is a digest sized, paperback compilation of the original comics. It is in color and printed on a high quality matte paper. The cover art is representative of the art inside in both style and coloring. The colors are bright and the illustrator utilizes a medium contrast. The art maintains a youthful tone by establishing a cartoonish feel, rather than more realistic works of other books. Yet, it is not a childlike nor is it in a manga cartoon style.

(NOTE: I had this book for a week and the pages started falling out. I will exchange it for another copy and see if it was an isolated incident or a problem with the overall construction.)

One of the jobs of an upper elementary and middle school teacher is to help students work in groups, develop relationships and communicate effectively with others. This would be a perfect book to discuss communication in its many forms. As children only develop empathy beginning around 12 years old, this book is a good way to explore the feelings of others and how one’s actions affect others. Other explorations can also be discussed as upper elementary children and teens are discovering their interests in extra-curricular activities, such as drama. Present in all Spider-Man comics is the issue of bullies. This book openly explores the issue of bullies from the perspective both from those that dislike you and those who pretend to like you. The rollercoaster ride that is the typical female adolescent relationship is also ripe for discussion. There are many avenues for a teacher to use in a classroom.

I recommend this book beginning in fifth grade. At that age, relationships are developing and drama is setting in. It would be a boon for female readers, especially those that may be dealing with relationship issues (both good and bad) and those who struggle to read, as well. It would be very applicable on the middle school level.

For more information on using comic books or graphic novels in the classroom, email me at You can also read more at:

Comics in the
News-a-rama Op/Ed Forums (Look for "All Ages Reads" headings)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Comics In The Classroom

I was a poor, unmotivated reader in school and to some extent, even during my college years, despite the fact that I was seeking (and earned) a degree in English. My emphasis during my post secondary years was on creative writing. We’ll just ignore the hypocrisy of the writer as the reluctant reader for now. Recognizing in the first grade that I was an utterly incompetent reader, as compared to the many girls in my class whose wonderful progress was charted nicely above the green slate chalkboard, I handed over all types of reading to the rest of the world. I just wasn’t interested.

It wasn’t until I had a child that I decided that the road traveled was the wrong path. Not wanting to pass down my poor reading habits, I sought out something new for me: I looked for reading that would somehow help me find my long lost inner reader, that child who enjoyed stories, myths and fantastical adventures. At the same time I wanted something that had a strong female presence, girl power if you will, something to share with my daughter in future years. Something different and fresh and interesting.

I finally found myself in a local comic book store, with my friend Larry, looking for some adventures that a child and her father might enjoy together. My early impression of comics was a misguided and stereotypical one. Like many, I just assumed that comics were for young boys and old geeks, a form of low art – a bastardized form of sub-literature, nothing worth my skills as a writer with a formal degree. I don’t exactly recollect why that changed, but my perspective changed and continues to change.

There I stood, staring at the racks of comic books, realizing that there was an untapped source of legitimate reading material that was not just for little guys and geeky fan boys. There were rich and deep stories from many manufacturers. In the five years since that day, the comic industry has continued to evolve with the culture. In 2002 the American Library Association invited several comic book artists to the group’s convention. Much to those comic creators’ surprise, the librarians knew something about the comic industry that others did not. Comics were key to helping children, especially boys, get involved with reading. Comics are slowly entering elementary classrooms as a cross-curriculum endeavor. They are used to teach history, social studies, science, and other subjects, while also meeting communication arts requirements.

With the prevalence of technology, video games, and animated films, our culture has mutated and evolved. The written word, the traditional book, is not being replaced by comics. Rather, comics are taking their place in the social consciousness right beside its older cousin. Comics are influencing the modern cultural landscape. Just last year the 9/11 Commission released its report in graphic novel form in hopes of finding an audience uninterested by the traditionally-printed report. Today, many comics and graphic novels are produced: both fiction and non-fiction. Classic literature is being reinterpreted for the graphic novel format, and historical figures are being captured in the pages of non-fiction comics. They ain’t your Daddy’s comics anymore.

Understanding the children with whom I will be interacting on a daily basis in the classroom is vital to my making lasting impacts on their young minds. As I have argued before, simply teaching as I was taught is not sufficient in today’s classroom. A good teacher, an ethical and motivated teacher, will seek out ways to enhance learning in a meaningful and lasting way. I believe that comics are simply one tool that can be used in the classroom to help reluctant readers find a way to be interested in the written word. Reading is not just for girls or for children with purely academic interests. Even struggling readers can find enjoyment out of literature, a definition which I proudly state consists of comics and graphic novels.

I have help in my endeavor. Canadian elementary teacher, Scott Tingley, runs the Comics in the Classroom website. He’s been a great help to me in finding the right comics for my future classroom. Comic distributor, Diamond, also has a division geared toward getting comics in the classroom.

It is exciting to be on the forefront of an exciting movement toward the education of our youth. Every good elementary teacher has his own collection of literature for his classroom library. Most educators suggest having at least 200 books. I am amassing my collection now, which will include graphic novels and comics. From time to time, I will write reviews of those comics and post them here for you.