I had always loved to read, but it wasn't until seventh grade English class that Miss Sauder opened the door to my future. Thanks to her passion for all things "Language Arts," I knew at just 12 years old I wanted to be an English major. We played with words and sentences, explored sounds and meaning ... I could do that all day!
Then I got to ninth grade. With texts like A Tale of Two Cities and Romeo and Juliet, I started to doubt my choice. It wasn't Sister Eileen's fault ... it was because of Dickens and Shakespeare. I loved words and language, but dang! They were making it too hard. I could read the words, but with all the time I spent deciphering how they were using words (and sometimes what those words were), I kept getting lost and frustrated.
I was a bookworm struggling ... and I was not alone. I doubt I'd be alone today, either.
My own frustration aside, I believe Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, and other literary heavyweights belong in our Language Arts classrooms. This isn't literature that you put on a summer reading list and leave to the kids to figure out. These are classic works (plays, poems, stories) that require a personal guide the first time through (at least) .
All of that said, the original texts are not (as they say now) "accessible" to everyone. Luckily, there are other ways to introduce students to Dickens, Shakespeare, and many other writers who comprise the "required reading" for high school students in many school districts.
When I started exploring the Saddleback Illustrated Classics on BigUniverse.com I instantly thought of that ninth-grade me. Although Sister Eileen would play a tape with people reading the original dialogue as though the play was being performed, it was still hard for me to "see" what was happening in my mind's eye. Sister Eileen would frequently stop the tape and explain what was happening.
With a graphic novel version of Romeo and Juliet Sister Eileen wouldn't have had to pause the story and disrupt the flow of events. Kids today are so lucky! As created by Saddleback, these literary works allow readers a way to
- see what's happening through illustration, not just words;
- hear what's happening with audio (included) and follow the pictures or captions; and
- comprehend the events more readily with modernized text.
Here's an example. In the balcony scene (left), the story is updated to include asides that set the scene. The essence of the exchange between Romeo and Juliet is unchanged.
Original: "But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."
Saddleback: "Wait! What light is that? It is Juliet, as bright and beautiful as the sun."
Graphic versions of classic literature is a wonderful way to get students on the same page (no pun intended). With a more solid understanding of the story / play / poem, teachers can then introduce the original text ... and they might just inspire readers to explore other works.
Using tools like Saddleback Illustrated Classics now can help them later. We are showing them that true learning can come in different forms; introducing them to a product that can fit with their learning needs and style; and helping them become well-rounded people.