Comics in classrooms: Denver educator says they belong in Common Core

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Photo: Comics applied in the classroom to teach Common CORE studies
From "Batman," to "Captain America" and Art Spielgelman's "Maus," Denver educator Jenn Anya Prosser says graphic novels can help build literacy and critical thinking skills.

“Comics are the gateway drug to literacy,” famed graphic novelist Art Spiegelman once said.

That's a quote that really resonates with Jenn Anya Prosser. She struggled with dyslexia as a kid, and says comics helped her build a foundation for her academic life. Now an educator herself, Prosser is bringing comics into Denver classrooms and says others should as well. She'll help lead a workshop called "Teaching with Comics and the Common Core" as part of Denver Comic Con on Monday.

Photo: Denver teacher Jenn Anya Prosser, teaching with comics
Denver educator Jenn Anya Prosser

Prosser spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner. Here are highlights from their conversation.

Prosser on how comics are a "gateway drug to literacy"

"With comics ... you don't recognize all of the pieces you're putting together. You have images that support the text and you're developing really important skills and creating an understanding of literature by reading comics. From one panel to the next, there's a gap where you insert your own imagination into the story and that empowers you as a reader. You become more interested in what you are reading."

On a graphic novel that was transformational for her

"I read 'Maus' in high school, and that was the first exposure I had to graphic novels in the classroom. It's Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning Holocaust account of his dad's experiences. I was taught it 16 years ago in Denver Public Schools. That was a really engaging way for me to learn about the Holocaust. ... I had studied so much about World War II because it captivated me as a student, but this was a whole different story."

On how this applies to other Common Core course, such as math or science

"I think it can be used in almost every classroom. One of my favorite graphic novels currently is 'Trinity,' which is by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm. And he discusses the history of the atom bomb. He goes into the science behind it, the social sciences, who's who, what's going on in World War II and it could be applied to a science classroom or a history classroom."