Working with Abraham Moss Community School, Manchester, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival has begun an important research project into Comics Literacy, in partnership with Comic Art Europe, with support from The Phoenix comic and Manchester City of Literature.
Comic Art Europe aims to demonstrate the importance of comics in societies across Europe and support new and young comics creators in developing their skills and experience. The programme is run by a partnership of four major comics events and organisations: the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, the Barcelona Comics School in Spain, the Belgian Comic Strip Museum in Brussels, and Lyon Comics Festival in France.
One element of the internationally and nationally significant programme is proving that comics can have a positive impact on literacy skills, enabling people from all ages and backgrounds to become better readers, writers and communicators and enhancing their confidence and social skills.
The programme will run from 2021 – 2023, and each European partner will work with one group to research the impact of comics on literacy. In the UK, Manchester’s Abraham Moss Community School, Year 3, will be the UK group, exploring how comics impact upon children’s enjoyment of reading and their wellbeing.
After finding out more about the children and their current attitudes and preferences in relation to reading and other activities, anonymously measuring their progress over the 12 months of the programme, the next stage is a series of creative workshops with comic creators, where the children will learn all about comics, both how to read them and how they are created.
The project involves a wealth of activities incorporating reading, writing and drawing, with workshops in the first year of the project led by comic creators Sayra Begum, Marc Jackson and Rachael Smith and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival’s education team, based in Kendal, working closely with staff at Abraham Moss.
The final stage will involve analysing the research findings, writing a report and presenting this to key people and organisations in the fields of education, literacy and the arts to enable more children and educators to benefit from all that comics have to offer.
The Phoenix comic, published by David Fickling Comics, is supporting the project, with all participants receiving a free subscription to the weekly comic.
“This is a hugely important project looking at what children read, and the enjoyment of reading,” says LICAF Festival Director Julie Tait, “looking at what children read, how they read, including comics, and, hopefully, assessing what barriers to enjoying comics there might be.
“Not much qualitative research of this kind has been done for some time, with such a large study group in the UK, and we’re delighted the pupils, parents and staff at Abraham Moss Community School have agreed to take part.
“Support from the Phoenix is also hugely appreciated. This is a major investment by the comic into comics reading research, encompassing both active participants and, later, a separate control group.”
“This project plays to our strengths and is a great show of team work,” says LICAF project co-ordinator Hester Harrington. “It’s also given some of the creators involved the opportunity to meet children, and work with them in a school environment, which they rarely do.”
“I still recall the anticipation and excitement I felt as a child waiting to open my Christmas presents, one of which was always the annual hard copy of The Beano – my younger brother received The Dandy,” says Abraham Moss headteacher Gill Houghton. “By the time breakfast was on the table I had read The Beano and was ready to dive into the adventures of The Dandy.
“I want all of my pupils to experience the escapism that reading comics offers, and the way in which comics can act as catalysts for a lifelong love of reading!”
Ivan Wadeson, Executive Director at Manchester City of Literature said “As a UNESCO Creative City, Manchester has a long-standing commitment to improving literacy levels through inspiring programmes such as Read Manchester. We are delighted to welcome this new initiative from LICAF to work alongside others in the City of Literature partnership to support young people in North Manchester in their reading journey and development.”