LIMA — Best selling author and comic book writer Gene Luen Yang made an appearance in Lima on Tuesday to sign autographs, meet with students at Shawnee Middle School and lead a discussion about how area teachers can use comic books as educational tools in the classroom.
Yang, who also taught computer science for 17 years, spoke to more than 10 teachers who attended the discussion at Alter Ego Comics.
“I think there are certain types of information better communicated through still pictures placed in a sequence, which is essentially what comic books are,” Yang said. “There’s a lot of topics in math and science especially that are best communicated that way.”
Yang’s new comic book, “Secret Coders,” combines logic puzzles and basic programming instruction with a mystery plot. He said the goal of this comic is to teach students computer science and programming skills while providing an interesting narrative that is engaging to readers.
“What we’re hoping is that the narrative will engage the readers’ emotions and then the lessons will engage the readers’ mind,” Yang said. “I think if readers become emotionally invested in the subject matter, they’ll be a little more attentive to the educational aspect.”
Yang said the idea stemmed from his time in the classroom. As a computer science teacher, he said he found himself constantly drawing things out on the white board as a way to communicate lessons to his students.
“I always thought that this stuff I have to teach visually would work great in a comic,” he said. “When you hand a kid a comic, they’ll be engaged immediately. Educationally speaking, you can’t underestimate visuals.”
Yang said using comics in education works especially well for students who are reluctant readers.
“Teachers who use comics in reluctant reader settings have found that it really increases reading in general,” he said. “Kids who start reading comics often end up reading all sorts of other material.”
Angie Bowker, a special-education teacher at Shawnee Middle School, said she has seen firsthand how comic books can help young people who struggle with reading comprehension.
“It can really help with those students because they can tell what’s going on in the story through pictures,” Bowker said. “It helps fill in the gaps that maybe they can’t picture in their head, which is an important piece in comprehension that some students struggle with.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima