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At some point in school, we’ve all had to lug around the stuffed, giant backpack. (We can you hear you groan from here, bes.) It’s inevitable; the inescapable group project, the long-winded book report, or the insufferable Math assignment all leave kids with quite the formidable workload.

Not that we’re complaining.

Much of this time is spent tending to reading assignments, too; from history to literature, to geography to biology, reading in school is, almost always, presented as task. Get with the program, kiddo, or a flunking is in the horizon. Harsh, ‘no?

This is the issue Nancy Silberkleit, co-CEO of legendary Archie Comics, has been addressing for almost a decade. Since stepping in as co-chief in 2009, Silberkleit, an art teacher for over 20 years, has advocated the use of graphic novels as learning tools.

Ahead of last week’s Philippine Readers and Writers Festival, Nancy Silberkleit spoke to MB Life about the merits of comics as academic resource.

“Comic books promote critical thinking and that’s what educators want,” Silberkleit tells this writer. “Especially this 21st Century, we have a lot of problems, we have a lot issues where answers have not have come yet.”

Archie Comics co-CEO, poses with shoes she’d worn in her days as an art teacher.

Confronted with the likelihood that comics raise concerns with teachers, Silberkleit raises her eyebrows.

“There should be no apprehension! I have met people who are at the top of the educational environment where they go ‘Oh! comic books? No!’ And it’s a shame comic books did get a bad rap, way back,” Silberkleit adds.

“With Millennials, this is where you want to instill and always offer those opportunities where critical thinking will occur, where you take the rich graphics and that little bit of text.”

Silberkleit is a proponent of a personal motto, “Children + Comic Books = Reading, Knowledge, and Confidence.” In many of her speaking engagements, most of which can be found through a quick YouTube search, she shares her belief of how learning to appreciate reading plays a pivotal role in a child’s education.

A message to fellow educators

“Well the teachers, they don’t know how skilled they are,” avers the co-CEO, wife of the late Michael Silberkleit. He was the son of Archie Comics founder Louis Silberkleit.

“The teacher has phenomenal experience dealing with different personalities, so I look at them to really empower the strength they have; a lot of teachers do not get the respect they deserve.”

She believes, looking back, that had her introduction to reading been a tad more engaging, a tad more colorful, she would’ve read a whole lot more in her youth.

“It is still a mystery today on how or what it is that connects to the brain to excite someone to read. We don’t know how that happens; for me it was picking up a proper book, but it was a shame that it wasn’t given to me when reading was introduced.”

“I’m sure that visuals are important,” Silberkleit adds in jest. “Unlike all these ‘black letters,’ where it wasn’t slipping in.”

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