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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Archie comics, literacy and pre-teen identity : a case study of L1 and L2 elementary students Vanderheyden, Karen Joy


This study focuses on pre-teen's responses to a particular cultural form, the Archie comic book. The research is framed by two central questions: (1) In what ways does the reading of Archie comics among pre-teen Archie readers support their literacy in Ll and 12? and (2) What do pre-teens' responses to the Archie story, "Fairy Tale Land Revisited, " tell us about their identity and their ways of understanding the world? In regard to the second question, I am primarily interested in students' identities as gendered and as L l and L2 learners. In addition, I am investigating the ways in which this research could foster community building in the elementary classroom. Two theorists in particular, Krashen (1993) and Glasberg (1992), have made claims about Archie comics, specifically in relation to student learning. Krashen believes that comics like Archie are perfect for "hooking" students into reading since they are high interest/low vocabulary reading. In fact, he concludes that comics in general are linguistically appropriate, not detrimental to reading development, and conduits to book reading in many cases. Glasberg takes a more critical approach to these comics and examines the messages that are embedded in the discourse. He argues that Archie comics relay dangerous messages to pre-adolescents regarding sexual stereotypes. This qualitative study attempts to respond and move beyond these claims by exploring student responses to questionnaires and interviews. Questionnaires were distributed to fifty-five pre-teen students. These students commented on their reading activities in general and responded to a particular Archie story. Out of the fifty-five students, thirty-four were categorized as Archie readers and filled out an additional section of the questionnaire in which they were asked to share their insights about these comics. In addition, twenty of these Archie readers were subsequently interviewed. The objective of the interviews was to gain a deeper understanding of pre-teen identity and specifically, to explore the extent to which insights about Archie comics could reveal the multiple identities of these readers. The findings point to the importance of popular cultural forms such as Archie comics in the lives of these pre-teens, both L I and L2. They indicate the ways in which these comics can support literacy for students. They also suggest that using comics in the classroom could be an effective tool for engaging children in a critical reflection of text, in particular the way that gender is constructed in stories. It is important to note that this study is part of an ongoing research project conducted by Dr. Bonny Norton, and therefore the use of the pronoun "we" in this thesis refers to Dr. Norton and me.

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