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Friday, January 03, 2020 

Quartz says comics can improve brain health

A writer for Quartz says the visual language of comics, according to some studies, can be good for the brain's health. Though the article contains some very naive statements like this:
Here’s a tradition that has persisted for generations: Kids huddle outside the doors of their local comic book shops—clutching their weekly allowance, babysitting money, loose change scavenged from between sofa cushions—just itching to get their hands on the latest issue of Superman, The Amazing Spiderman, or Teen Titans.

And accompanying this tradition are the unenlightened parents who roll their eyes at the stacks of glossy paperbacks avalanching to the floor, sighing “Well, at least they’re reading something.”
Unfortunately, as the realist can tell you, they no longer are. With costs over 4 dollars - and surely 5 dollars for plenty different items at this point - it's rather laughable to say children are able to buy on simple allowances anymore, and with so many once suitable for family reading - if not kid-friendly - comics being morphed into jarringly adult fare, that's why today's sensible parent could easily say, "what a shame they're making it impossible to approve." Certainly if it's mainstream superhero fare in question.

Let's move on to a better part:
According to comic theorist Dale Jacobs, comics and graphic novels tell sophisticated stories through multimodal cues that stimulate similar processes to the human brain mapping the world around it. Combinations of words, images, color, spatial layout, gutters, sound effects, panel composition, body language, and facial expressions are all used to convey meaning.

These complex panels create a visual language that directly activates the same cognitive processes as more advanced text comprehension to achieve a rich, multi-dimensional representation of the presented information.
Well that sounds like positive research. But then, again, the article turns to a slapdash viewpoint:
Thanks in part to the enduring popularity of comics and comic characters—not to mention the ongoing blockbuster franchises of comic remakes—the internet is flooded with articles encouraging parents and educators to allow children to read comics. Most focus on the argument that because kids enjoy comics they will therefore be motivated to read them, and inadvertently benefit from their tools and learning properties. Some have correctly pointed out that reading visual narratives improves overall literacy. But few take the time to consider that comics are doing more than simply entertaining or educating.
Not always are they doing something educational. Let's take Marvel's attack on the Tea Party a decade ago as an example. If that were marketed at children proper, it would be a major embarrassment. And children today clearly aren't reading comics like they used to in the past, so the argument they do enjoy the medium is uncertain from a modern perspective.

Let's turn again to one of the better moments along this article:
Neil Cohn, comics theorist, assistant professor at Tilburg University, and author of a study titled Visual Narratives and the Mind, makes the point that comic books can serve as a powerful and effective learning aid.

While very young children are often first introduced to stories through picture books filled with bright colors, exaggerated expressions, and very few words, conventional education encourages children to graduate to more advanced early reader books and eventually text-heavy chapter books.

Children with learning or developmental differences, especially those with autism spectrum disorder, can resist or struggle with the transition from visual to more traditional reading tasks. And this is where comics and graphic narratives have the most potential to enrich and empower kids’ lives and learning abilities.
I'm sure they do, but again, it all depends on what the given examples are. Sure, there are some comics for the younger generations in publication today, but because they appear to be overshadowed by the mainstream, which became anything but suitable, are a failure on an artistic level, and still awash to some degree with leftist politics by writers who're proving a poor example in real life, that's why you have to pick carefully and not rely on the Marvel/DC output if you want your kids engrossed in something to pass the time with.

I do think the given argument in favor of comics as a great thinking tool for children is impressive in itself, but distinctions have to be made between what's good and bad. That's the only way you'll be able to find something really good for them.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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