Capitalizing on a growing body of evidence that comics can encourage reluctant readers to read more and talented students to gain in knowledge and creativity, The Maryland State Department of Education has partnered with Diamond Comic Book Distributors and elicited the help of members of local school systems, higher education, adult and corrections education, and libraries. The goal is to develop a Maryland plan and instructional strategies that support the use of graphic literature in elementary, secondary, adult, and corrections education. This initiative which is sponsored by State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick and the President of Diamond Comics, Steve Geppi.
The Maryland Comic Book Initiative
The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) partnered with Diamond Comic Book Distributors, the nation's largest comic book distributor, to create a Maryland Comic Book Initiative called Comics in the Classroom. The purpose of the initiative is to introduce and encourage the use of award-winning and other credible graphic novels and comic book materials in classroom instruction. These materials are not to be a replacement of traditional texts and instruction, but rather an additional means to enhance reading instruction by motivating students to read more and better. The innovative programs developed for Phase 1 of the program include lessons and suggested materials for elementary grades first through fourth. These lessons are based on Maryland's Voluntary State Curriculum. Specialized instructional lessons designed with Disney Publishing Worldwide were piloted in Maryland and evaluated by the University of Maryland Baltimore County. These lessons and other parts of the program have received widespread national and international attention.
The Disney/MSDE Comics in the Classroom Toolkit - Background Information
In 2004, MSDE brought together a panel of distinguished teachers, principals, and comic book experts to brainstorm ideas related to the use of comics in Maryland classrooms. The idea was enthusiastically embraced and teacher team members and the MSDE scoped out an instructional program for Maryland. The MSDE then began contract work with Disney Publishing Worldwide to create an instructional toolkit featuring Disney characters that could be used by teachers to motivate students and expand their reading skills. The program which was developed is referred to as the Comics in the Classroom Toolkit. It is geared to third and perhaps fourth grade students and features ten lessons complete with lesson-by-lesson guidelines, reading, vocabulary, and writing exercises, along with comic book creation exercises and other handouts for students. Toolkit reading materials feature classic Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. A set of 30 comic books is included in each classroom kit. Sample lessons can be found the following URL: bookshelf.diamondcomics.com. Follow the link for Md Comic Book Initiative.
Recently, eight Maryland elementary schools piloted this program at the third grade and we learned that the students LOVED reading graphic stories and gained important reading, writing, and thinking skills. The Disney materials were vetted by a state committee and evaluated by the education department at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). The results of the evaluation were very positive.
Project Continuation in 2008
In a new phase of the initiative starting spring 2008, approximately 200 Maryland third grade classrooms will work with MSDE in providing additional feedback on the Toolkit lessons. In addition, the Maryland Comic Book Initiative will continue to work with Diamond and numerous publishers to offer guidance and ideas for instructional programs utilizing graphic novels and comics for students of all ages.
Steve Geppi, Darla Strouse, Dr. Nancy Grasmick, John Snyder of Diamond, and Jonathan Yaged of Disney Publishing Worldwide.
May 3, 2007
Comics In The Classroom Video, May 3, 2007
Fourth graders from George Lisby Elementary at Hillsdale in Harford County visit the Geppi Entertainment Museum downtown by Camden Yards, as Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick launches the "Comics In The Classroom" initiative.