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What Comic-Con Nerds Know About Getting Kids Hooked on Reading

"Alpha Nerd" teacher Patrick Murphy says letting kids read sci fi, horror, fantasy, and comics will get them hooked on literature.

Thousands of comic and science fiction fans across the nation are recovering from last weekend's annual San Diego Comic-Con convention—and surely plotting their outfits for next year's nerd fest. According to attendee Patrick Murphy, a teacher at Fremont High School in West Ogden, Utah, if we want students to improve their reading comprehension and critical thinking skills— and truly fall in love with literature—we need to bring a genre that makes adults want to dress up as their favorite superhero into the classroom. Murphy led a Comic-Con workshop, "The Nerd in the Classroom: Sci-fi as an Educational Tool" so that he could help other educators figure out how to do just that.

"I took a sci-fi lit class in college and it was the first class I actually liked," Murphy, who calls himself the "Alpha Nerd," told The San Diego Union Tribune. After discovering that his students hated The Scarlet Letter, Murphy introduced them to the books he'd fallen in love with: science fiction, horror, fantasy, and comic classics like The Island of Dr. Moreau and Frankenstein.

Murphy's workshop shared a yearlong plan for an English class, individual units, how much books and materials would cost, and how to teach the state standards and prepare for standardized tests. Indeed, similar to teachers who engage kids by using games like World of Warcraft to teach English, Murphy's students get plenty of practice on the skills they need to learn by writing research papers on The Twilight Zone episodes or characters from the DC or Marvel universes. The students' enthusiasm for the comics, sci fi, and fantasy texts shows. Last year 100 percent of Murphy's students scored proficient on state English tests.

Missed Comic-Con but interested in learning more about Murphy's approach? He's started a Facebook group, The Nerd in the Classroom, which is a place for teachers to share resources and "discuss all things nerd and their respected use in the classroom to engage student learning."

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Port of San Diego

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