By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Comics and LiteracyIn a discussion forum set at England’s Manchester Museum today (February 21), the Comic Art Europe project reports that it has staged a program called “Comics Up Close” in which “inspired academics,” researchers, and students looked at new perspectives in comics with artists-illustrators and teachers.
Publishing Perspectives readers will recall that Comic Art Europe is a consortium of four European organizations intended to promote comics’ development in the form at several levels. It includes a competition, a pre-professional summer camp program for 20 comics creators—with the input of authors, publishers, and agents—and an ongoing “community actions” program intended to “prove that comics can have a positive impact on literary skills.”
The Manchester program today was in part an outgrowth of these “community actions.”
The consortium site was not carrying details of the program, but some information was on the site for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, the wing of the program presenting the event, here.
While the program has not provided the news media with specific session titles or an agenda, the consortium continues to comprise its original four entities:
- Lyon BD Organisation (France)
- The Lakes International Comic Art Festival (United Kingdom)
- Escola Joso, Centre de Còmic i Arts Visuals (Spain)
- Belgian Comic Strip Center (BCSC)
‘To Test and Highlight the Social Power of Comics’
Manchester Museum is part of the University of Manchester. Speakers were to include author Dave McKean; Collège de France professor Benoît Peeters; Latin American Cultural Studies senior lecturer at Manchester James Scorer; Sheffield Hallam University senior lecturer Harriet Earle; and Andrew Miles, who is to present “an important part of our Comic Art Europe project.” Alex Fitch of the University of Brighton, was scheduled to moderate.
Miles is a professor of sociology and director of research in the university’s school of social sciences, and seems to have led the event, which had to do with effects of “the use of comics on the literacy process.” While the “literacy process” is not defined in media messaging, it’s likely that this is an inquiry into whether comics reading supports the development of literacy or not (something that has baffled parents and teachers, of course), and more information on this could be welcome, as comics and other graphically rendered and treated literature continue to find greater traction in many international book publishing markets.
“The consortium started from the observation,” we read, “that the use of comics as a literacy or alphabetization tool by educational staff and social workers is only minimal and empirical. That is why Comic Art Europe initiated a European action research project to test and highlight the social power of comics.”
Developing this theme has involved literacy workshops staged in association with educational institutions. Examples we’re given:
- Lyon BD Organisation, in partnership with Langues Comme Une, worked with asylum seekers
- BCSC, in partnership with la Maison des Femmes de Molenbeek, worked with isolated women
- The Escola JOSO, in partnership with ASSÍS, Reception Center for the homeless people, worked with homeless people
- LICAF, in partnership with Abraham Moss Community School, worked with primary school students
Miles has worked with Rowena Singleton, we’re told, to collect “quantitative and qualitative data to analyze the impact of the use of comics in the ‘literacy process.'” That analysis is said to have been completed by reports and feedback from workshop participants in each of the partner countries.
It’s the results of this analysis that are to have been presented today in the “Comics Up Close” event at Manchester, the speakers presenting various parts of their localized work, as we understand it.
With luck, Comic Art Europe may produce a coherent understanding of this research and its implications after the presentation today. On the Lakes festival site, we read that the Comics Up Close program was part of the Lakes Festival but now is “moving between universities in the north of England.”
Comic Art Europe is co-funded by Creative Europe, a program of the European Union.
More from Publishing Perspectives on comics is here, more on graphic novels is here, and more on the European markets is here.