05/27/03
CrossGen Comics for the Classroom
    by Laurie Taylor

Ever wish you could've written a book report on the latest Batman comic rather than whatever happened to be on the school approved reading list? Well, what if Batman was on the list, and was even endorsed by the school? If this sounds impossible, consider that most kids read comics, even kids who don't read anything else. So it would seem to make perfect sense to have comic books in schools for kids to read right alongside other higher caliber literature. The problem, though, has always been one of the comics' content -- that is, until CrossGen Comics came along. Based in Tampa, Florida, CrossGen created the Bridges Program, which is currently being used in Florida and will be available nationwide starting this fall (2003), for the purpose of bringing topnotch comics into the classroom, comics that fit specific school guidelines for supplemental literature.

The CrossGen creators, Mark Alessi and Gina Villa, developed these comics because, as parents, they wanted their kids to read, and as comic book producers, they wanted their kids to read comics. They were also tired of hearing comics relegated to the lowest rungs on the reading ladder -- just above not reading at all. So CrossGen had their mission and began meeting it with two innovative lines of comics for middle and high school students.

Meridian, the fantasy-based series of comics for middle-school students, has a female main character named Sephie. After her father's death, Sephie succeeds him as the prime minister of her homeland, a floating island named Meridian. In her struggle to provide it with good leadership, Sephie must draw on her own strengths -- her knowledge of geography and her aerial piloting skills -- to keep her land free from the forces that seek to overwhelm it.

Ruse, the series for high-school students, features an updated, hip Sherlock-Holmes-and-Watson-esque sleuthing pair. One is the handsome, clever, and often overly logical detective Simon Archard. The other is the stunningly beautiful and equally powerful Emma Bishop, who is the real force behind the duo. While their stories are based on familiar plots, their adventures are told with unusual flair -- the artwork is vibrant, the writing is cunning, and the action is electrifying.

To teach these books, CrossGen has produced instructional guides, with grade specific questions and vocabulary tests; and they have even set up online help, with forums for teachers and students to talk about what they like and what they are learning. With books as compelling and intricate as Meridian and Ruse, students will be reading whether or not they have homework.

Please see the CrossGen website for more information on this innovative program: http://www.crossgen.com/education

Copyright 2003 Laurie Taylor

Today's program reviewed the following works:

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