LAKELAND, Fla. — Like most superheroes, Nicole Jobin is needed now more than ever.
“I have sixth-graders who are reading at a second-grade level,” says the literacy coach at Sleepy Hill Middle School in Lakeland. “They can’t even read a newspaper.”
Jobin is hoping to launch the "Comics in the Classroom" program at her Polk County school this spring.
She’s been workshopping her idea at various Comic Cons around Florida. She and her husband Brian Wenzloff will next appear at the free Clearwater Comic Con on March 16.
“When we’re kids we read picture books,” says Jobin. “And then at some point, we take all the pictures out and say, ‘Here you go!’ And that’s a big problem for a lot of our struggling readers. They need that visual stimulation.”
Jobin’s origin story — to borrow a comic-book phrase — started in Las Vegas when she taught an ESL course, using visual cues from graphic novels.
“I realized this works!” she says.
Before coming to Sleepy Hill Middle, she worked at a Winter Haven school. In the final few weeks before summer break one year, she used an X-Men comic book to teach reading comprehension... and a lot more.
“At this school I was at, race was an issue that nobody wanted to talk about,” says Jobin.
The X-Men comic, with its mutants fighting prejudice as much as bad guys, had special meaning for the students there beyond learning basic reading skills.
“This was an allegory for civil rights,” says Jobin, who’s now working on her own book with artist Rob Andersin. “Comics are an allegory for life.”