Cartoons Not all that Bad for Learning

When most people think of cartoons, they think of a mindless activity for young kids but, it turns out, cartoons used for learning can be very beneficial.

First, check out Howtoons which shows kids how to create really neat stuff with just a cartoon like explanation. I can tell you these cartoons are far easier to follow than a lot of instruction manuals I’ve read. What a great way to encourage the learning of math, science and engineering topics.

Cartoon from the mega-cool site Howtoons 
showing kids how to build a submarine out of a soda bottle.

Second, research by Professor Carol Tilley, from the department of library and information science, indicated that comics are just as sophisticated as other forms of reading, and children benefit from reading them at least as much as they do from reading other kinds of books.

Tilley said there was evidence that comics increased learning vocabulary and instilled a love of reading.

She said: “A lot of the criticism of comics and comic books come from people who think that kids are just looking at the pictures and not putting them together with the words.
“Some kids, yes. But you could easily make some of the same criticisms of picture books – that kids are just looking at pictures, and not at the words.”

She added: “Although they’ve long embraced picture books as appropriate children’s literature, many adults – even teachers and librarians who willingly add comics to their collections – are too quick to dismiss the suitability of comics as texts for young reader  Check out the full article.

Third, is a comic describing the safe operation of an M16 Riffle. Serious stuff for a serious subject but consider the audience. Typically young people around the age of 18 with a sense of adventure.

One more example is the instruction manual for Google Chrome.

So, next time you are trying to decide how to make that complicated educational manual a little more simpler and ensure that people actually read it, think about a delivery style based on comics.

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Posted in: Gamers

Leave a Comment (7) ↓


  1. denis December 7, 2009

    I loved to watch the cartoons as well as to create the cartoons..
    r4i software

  2. Blogger In Middle-earth December 3, 2009

    Kia ora e Karl

    And then there is The Periodic Table of Comic Books!

    Catchya later

  3. everist December 1, 2009

    I've actually read that book, "Understanding Comics", which is why I have no problem understanding the benefits.

    So I have no problem understanding why comics are so effective and there is no doubt I could persuade one or two people to come to my side. But that's not the problem I'm dealing with.

    The problem is that I need to persuade an entire class of people to participate in effective comic-based learning without them having to overcome their prejudice towards comics. Let's face it, people don't do things against their world view or admit that they are wrong. So convincing people that they are wrong is not the right approach.

    I like the idea of adding realism to the comics, but that's kind of expensive and time-consuming. Perhaps using less dynamic colors and making things more boring might lull the public into participating and thinking it's less childish.

    Your first approach of showing other examples is a good approach, but that's kind of a long process if you're trying to include that in a marketing plan.

    I think for now, we're going to focus on the younger generation first and see if we can make a business. If we're successful, we can then turn our attention to the much larger pie and the more difficult perception problem.


  4. Karl Kapp November 30, 2009

    TheoIGetIt!, Couldn't agree with you more, perhaps I should have been a bit stronger in my title:)

  5. Karl Kapp November 30, 2009


    Two things that I have found that work or, at least, move people closer to accepting the use of comic style for education. One is to show examples of the serious use of comics and explain that they are simply away of making instructions or information more accessible.

    Second, an effective method is to make the people in the comics as realistic as possible. Realism in the comic style tends to work better than more abstract drawings and concepts. Also, I agree 100% with TheoIGetIt's comment above. Check out Scott McLoud's work on comics, it might help change the minds of some of the people you need to convince.

    Good luck,

  6. everist November 29, 2009


    I've known this and have made a bet on this to be a medium for English conversation practice. Unfortunately it looks like only the younger set are going to go for it since the older generation doesn't feel that cartoons are for them.

    There's also a cultural perception that cartoons are child's subject and not fit for adult learning. By the way, this Korean culture, not American culture. Any ideas on how to reposition it to make it more palatable?


  7. TheoIGetIt! November 27, 2009

    Not that Bad!? A total understatement! Comics are an incredible combination of words, images and symbols. I highly recommend Scott McCloud's classic comic/text on the subject Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.

Karl Kapp
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