Teacher Tales

The Anime Fanatic

This girl came to my classroom a year ago a broken child. She was different from the other girls at her old school. Her imagination was on overdrive, she loved to draw and was an anime fanatic, the more violent the material the better. She was a tomboy and proud of it… outspoken, boisterous, tough. She loved to write, especially poetry, but rarely did so (because grammar, spelling, and writing structure were too difficult), and she hated to read.

In addition to the social isolation she had suffered, the teachers at her previous schools had been brutal with her, insisting that she focus on the surface details of writing (the basic mechanics) and ditch her own interests for ones the teachers deemed to be more “appropriate.” She was regularly punished and given poor grades for her writing mistakes and was never recognized for her vibrant imagination. Her self-esteem was so low when she came to our school, I could have scraped it off the floor.

Reading was a difficult task, and that was where I knew I had to start with her. As I read with her the first time, I saw the symptoms of dyslexia and sequencing deficits, and could easily understand why she didn’t like to read.

Taking advantage of her amazing intellect, imagination, and visual learning style, I turned her on to the wonders of comic books. Particularly the ElfQuest graphic novels, Volumes 1-3. I sat and read the comics with her, each of us choosing characters to read aloud. She became deeply involved in the ElfQuest books and was soon struggling through them on her own (skipping recess in the process) just to read more. When she had finished the first several books of the series, she discovered that there were shelves full of anime graphic novels at all the major bookstores. It wasn’t long before she was devouring one of those 100 page novels a day. Then it was an easy jump from that to real novels. She moved herself up three reading grades in one year with nothing but motivation.

In the meantime, the girl’s writing was taking off as well. With her reading confidence rising so quickly, she decided to write anime stories and comics of her own, and spent hours every day doing so. Yes, they still needed a lot of editing for grammar and spelling and such, but they were making more sense than anything she had written before. All that reading had given her a feel of the organization and natural flow of words.

Currently, this child has written over a hundred pages, and her grammar and spelling skills have improved dramatically along the way. Most importantly, the content of her writing is superior in its maturity and eloquence. With a little editing, every word sounds like poetry.

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