For the last three years in the fall and the spring, one evening of my week has been spent volunteering in Higher Achievement. In this program mentors work with scholars, grades five to eight, in math, reading and seminar. Seminar can be a number of things, but for my group it’s been a hands-on science activity.
My co-mentors and I noticed that two of our three seventh grade scholars possessed exceptional reading skills, while our third scholar, CJ, seemed to struggle.
CJ would say, “I don’t like reading” or “I don’t care about reading.” In discussions with the center director and CJ’s assigned tutor, we were encouraged not to make him feel singled out and isolated within the group.
Shortly thereafter the center coordinator had an interesting idea and suggested, “Anwar, you should recommend something to CJ that you liked reading when you were his age.” Since it is black history month my thoughts initially turned to The Autobiography of Malcolm X, a powerful book in my youth. Upon further thought though, I felt it was not a good candidate due to the dense text, which may not have worked well with a student struggling to read.
My thoughts then recalled the many trips to the Queen City Bookstore in Buffalo, N.Y. where my brother and I faithfully spent our allowances on comic books of Batman, the Flash, Captain Atom, SHAZAM and the Justice League International.
Our earliest reading adventures were not from textbooks, but from comic books. In the late 80s, when we regularly collected them, comic books began addressing more mature themes and dealt with real issues such as world politics, sexual abuse, and in some cases, death.
In Kingdom Come, Superman comes out of a self-imposed exile in an attempt to provide leadership to the next generation of super heroes who have become more of a danger than a help to society. Those who continued to rebel are prisoned for rehabilitation in a Gulag.
An apocalyptical showdown is secretly planned by Superman’s arch-nemesis Lex Luthor who has corrupted Captain Marvel, arguably Superman’s only equal in the DC Universe. The two square off at the end of the book amongst a mass battle of all of the heroes including both Wonder Woman and Batman.
Besides the story, which has biblical undertones and references, the book is illustrated by Alex Ross who used actual human models for illustrating the book. My hope was to impress CJ with the art even if he didn’t take to the story right away.
CJ’s reaction to his new book and the importance of all of this will be discussed in of Encouraging strong reading skills part two.
To learn more about Higher Achievement, contact Jacquelyn Hortsmann, Manager of Communications & Development at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 202-375-7709. Or visit the website at www.higherachievement.org.