Reading Superheroes

  • Feb 13, 2017

GTS Comics

More and more educators are using comic books and graphic novels to encourage students to read, and the comics industry has stepped up to meet the challenge with educational storylines and free classroom resources. Want to get in on the action?

Read on!


I ONCE SAW a batch of old, black and white photographs online depicting kids from a bygone era reading comic books. The author of the post pointed out that it was heartwarming somehow to think that these long-ago children are today the parents and grandparents of kids who are still reading comics.

This point was brought back to me recently during a visit to my local comic shop. It was a busy Saturday afternoon and the store was crowded with parents and children browsing row upon row of colorful covers, making their selections and sharing their excitement for the stories and characters they’d be taking home.

Any way you look at this scenario, you see something positive—a tradition being passed down; shared experience; stoked imaginations; an enduring appreciation for stories. And the best part is, it’s all about reading.

It’s no secret that America is in the midst of a literacy crisis. According to a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, the literacy skills of many students in grades 4 through 12 are “alarmingly low.” As educators you know this firsthand. But more importantly, you represent the front line of a national effort to turn things around.

And judging by my research, more and more of you are turning to comic books and graphic novels.

An internet search for “comic books in education” yields a far-ranging collection of articles that document how educators have seized upon young peoples’ interest in comics to get them reading. And to its credit, the comic book industry itself has stepped-up to meet this challenge, by emphasizing STEM, anti-bullying, and other relevant topics in a number of popular storylines.

Diamond Comic Distributors, the world’s largest distributor of English-language comic books and graphic novels, has set-up a website called Diamond Bookshelf, which offers a collection of free resources for educators interested in exploring the possibilities of comics in the classroom. There are lesson plans (PreK-12), reviews, teacher testimonials, recommended reading lists, and much more.

Citing a study in the School Library Journal, Diamond Bookshelf reports that the presence of comics in a junior high school library resulted in a dramatic 82% increase in library traffic, and a 30% increase in circulation of non-comic books.

Intrigued by those numbers, I sought insight from an Ontario teacher-librarian I met on Twitter, and he told me a similarly encouraging story. “Our graphic novel section began 9 years ago and has grown from a basket, to a shelf, to a whole bookcase of titles,” says Mr. Pamayah, who goes by the Twitter handle @Mister_Library. “Our students have always been eager to have more. It has helped that authors and publishers now offer a wide selection of graphic novels. They have become a featured section with students asking for more, including sequels. I have also had to replace many because they are so well-used.

“Teachers will use specific titles that relate to curriculum on subject areas,” Mr. Pamayah continues. “Our teachers also use the graphic novels to highlight how that format is structured, and teach students how to make their own comic or paneled writing. This section is one of the most popular in our library with students.”

Apparently, we’ve come a long way from the days when reading comics in school earned you a trip to the principal’s office!

Have you had a similar experience? Are comic books and graphic novels being used in your school, or is this something you’ve been thinking about? We’d love to hear more success stories. Let us know on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Great Opportunity for Student Writers

  • Nov 12, 2015


Teachers, do you have any talented young writers in your classroom? It’s possible. And wouldn’t you just love to be perhaps the first person in their lives to tell them they’ve got a gift?

If so, we’d encourage you to check out Scholastic’s annual Kids Are Authors competition, a wonderful opportunity for young writers and artists to pursue their crafts together on a serious level and possibly even get published!

The contest is open to all students grades K-8 in the United States, including its territories and possessions, and the deadline for submission is March 15th, 2016. There are two categories, Fiction and Non-Fiction, and the two grand-prize-winning illustrated books (21-29 pages) will be published by Scholastic and sold at Book Fairs throughout the country.

By the way, according to Scholastic this will be the final year for the competition, so now’s your chance!

For more information visit the official Kids Are Authors web site.

And to find out about other great free educational resources and opportunities, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


This Semester, Organize a Book Drive!

  • Aug 27, 2015


Everybody loves a good book drive. Why? Lots of reasons.

For one thing, deep down inside, people like to share. People also like books, and chances are they have a few volumes lying around that would be of much more use in someone’s hands than they are on a shelf collecting dust. Moreover, the people who will eventually receive and dive-into those generously-donated books are usually the sort who truly value them.

So it’s a win-win.

An that’s not even taking into account the good will generated by the effort, or the feeling of accomplishment enjoyed by the folks who organized the book drive in the first place.

And that’s where you come in—teacher, student, administrator, parent, librarian, or just plain interested. You’re the one who is going to seek out willing partners and get this thing rolling. But first, you’re going to pay a visit to the official web site of United We Serve, where you’ll find a terrific toolkit that will help you mount the best book drive ever.

And once you do, please be sure to tell us all about it on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Summer Learning is Fun with WordGirl!

  • Jun 18, 2015


There’s a lot to be said for a superhero that not only fights crime with the aid of a monkey sidekick, but also helps kids build their reading, writing, and vocabulary skills.

That hero is WordGirl, and she’s out to take summer learning to a whole new level.

PBS Kids invites students K-3 to spend some fun time building their word power this summer with new episodes of WordGirl every Wednesday and Friday (check local PBS listings), accompanied by a free, downloadable Super Summer Fun Book filled with educational activities.

It’s also a great activity for families, one that will enhance a child’s education and help combat summer learning loss.

Check out the video playlist below for a sample of WordGirl’s word power.

And to stay abreast of other great educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Take Your Class On a Virtual Field Trip with President Obama, This Thursday!

  • Apr 28, 2015


Teachers, we’re thrilled to share with you the opportunity for you and your class to participate in Read to Discover A World of Infinite Possibilities, a unique Virtual Field Trip that Discovery Education is hosting in collaboration with the White House and President Obama, this Thursday, April 30th at 10:40am.

Broadcast LIVE from Washington, D.C., President Obama will connect with thousands of students nationwide to highlight the importance of reading and expanding digital literacy. It should be an incredible event, as the President shares his own love of reading and thoughts about how digital content and technology open up a world of learning.

This virtual field trip is the latest event in Discovery Education’s “Of the People: Live from the White House” Virtual Field Trip series, which transports students behind the scenes to learn about the people, places and issues that shape our world. 

Register your class today. It’s free!