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Harness the power of manga to get boys reading

It is a common misconception that male students don’t like reading. Gareth Summers, head of English at Rushcliffe School in Nottinghamshire, explains how comics can be a great way to encourage engagement with literature

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It is a common misconception that male students don’t like reading. Gareth Summers, head of English at Rushcliffe School in Nottinghamshire, explains how comics can be a great way to encourage engagement with literature

Children innately enjoy stories. If they haven’t yet discovered the joy of a good book, then we must simply help them to explore different avenues until they find something that speaks to them. This can sometimes mean looking beyond traditional texts.

At Rushcliffe School in Nottinghamshire, we’ve been trying out different ways to get pupils hooked on reading. One of the most successful has been our comics and manga society, which has proved especially popular with boys.

The group came about as a result of an offhand comment from a Year 8 boy. “There aren’t any clubs for the things that I like,” he said.

His words made me wonder why we weren’t catering to what this student wanted and how many other students felt the same. As a result, the manga society was born.

Since then, it has become a place for children to discuss aspects of narrative – such as characterisation, crises and climaxes – and to share their opinions about the relative merits of the Marvel or DC universes.

What has been really interesting is the way in which children who have been involved with the club are able to transfer the skills developed in this extra-curricular session to the classroom. One pupil, Ethan Barrett, said: “I’ve loved being able to talk about what I read in my spare time. What has been most surprising is how often it’s linked in with what I’m studying in English.”

What we’ve found is that children who have sometimes tended towards more niche literature are now fully engaged in talking about how texts function in relation to each other. This is no mean feat for a group of Year 8 boys who at the start of the year would have characterised themselves as “not liking reading.”

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