Comic Boom - Comics in Education

Comic Boom - S2 Ep.3 Afro Manga Club with Natalie Scarlett

May 03, 2023 Lucy Starbuck Braidley/Natalie Scarlett Season 2 Episode 3
Comic Boom - S2 Ep.3 Afro Manga Club with Natalie Scarlett
Comic Boom - Comics in Education
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Comic Boom - Comics in Education
Comic Boom - S2 Ep.3 Afro Manga Club with Natalie Scarlett
May 03, 2023 Season 2 Episode 3
Lucy Starbuck Braidley/Natalie Scarlett

This week Lucy talks to Natalie Scarlett about Afro Manga Club - a joint project run by The National Literacy Trust and Black Heritage Support Service for young people in Birmingham AND we hear from the young people themselves as the podcast hits the road and visits the club in session (huge thanks to roving reporter and National Literacy Trust Hub Manager Kyle!).

You can find out more about the work of the National Literacy Trust by following the links below:
Website: www.literacytrust.org.uk
Twitter: @literacy_trust

Links to everything  discussed, including the Amber and Natalie's recommendations  can be found on the podcast padlet.

 
Producer and Host:
@Lucy_Braidley
Contact: comicboompodcast@gmail.com


Music by
John_Sib from Pixabay




Show Notes Transcript

This week Lucy talks to Natalie Scarlett about Afro Manga Club - a joint project run by The National Literacy Trust and Black Heritage Support Service for young people in Birmingham AND we hear from the young people themselves as the podcast hits the road and visits the club in session (huge thanks to roving reporter and National Literacy Trust Hub Manager Kyle!).

You can find out more about the work of the National Literacy Trust by following the links below:
Website: www.literacytrust.org.uk
Twitter: @literacy_trust

Links to everything  discussed, including the Amber and Natalie's recommendations  can be found on the podcast padlet.

 
Producer and Host:
@Lucy_Braidley
Contact: comicboompodcast@gmail.com


Music by
John_Sib from Pixabay




Lucy:

Can you give us a little bit of background about the book club, I'd really like to hear where the idea started from and, and how the project came to life.

Natalie/Amber:

Yeah, yeah, no problem. So. I have a, well he's 14 now, 14 year old son. But when he was sort of in year three, year four, he was really struggling with his reading and I was trying to find a way to engage him in his reading. Cause obviously you can only get better if you do more. But if a child doesn't like reading or if they don't enjoy reading, then that's a really hard task. and the books in most schools in Britain don't really reflect the children. So there weren't really any books that he read with black children in there, or, or stories that he could relate to. So he just didn't enjoy them. So I thought about what I could find to get him engaged and realized that he was obsessed with anime. So one day I decided to take him to comic shop and I asked him if he'd like to pick a book, and he did. He ended up picking three actually, cuz he recognized them, the characters, and I guess he could relate to the anime characters because he'd grown up watching them And then gradually over time, we just saw an improvement in his reading because he'd go through two, three books every couple of days really. And we'd go every weekend. So I just saw the impact that AniManga as they're called, which is when the manga book is based around the anime TV show. I saw his improvement within reading because of the books. fast forward to, last year. I thought it might be good to see if that worked on a wider scale and to see if we could get children to fall in love with reading. So I saw, I think I saw a post somewhere. From the National Literacy Trust, saying that they were having a, a, I think like a meeting or something at the university. So I just popped along to see what they did. and that's where I met Kyle and Laura who spoke about being able to, support us with a project if he wanted to do

Lucy:

Can you tell us about the sort of shape of the project and what happens, how long it's lasting and, and what the aims.

Natalie/Amber:

the aim of the project really was to see if the children could enjoy reading. if they enjoyed it, did they enjoy it even more at the end of the session? So it's a six week pilot for us to test that, and that was the aim. Can children fall in love with reading? do will they enjoy reading if they didn't by the end of the pilot. and we also thought there could be maybe a couple of other things that we could probably measure within that. So the project itself is partnered or coupled with illustration. Because that was almost like the hook to get children long before. If we'd find something that children enjoy and all children enjoy art and drawing, then we can couple it together with, with peer to peer reading. So, we also wanted to see how much of the illustration they enjoyed. If we took the illustration away, would they continue coming? If we reading away, would they continue coming to do the illustration? did they enjoy the two together? Did they enjoy the process of creating a book and seeing themselves in there? So those are the couple of a few things that were, were, were starting to measure within the sessions, Ultimately, we want kids to just enjoy reading more within our community, within the Afro-Caribbean community, but it is for all kids. We've got different types of kids here, but the Afro-Caribbean community in particular, boys, do struggle in school. They're pretty much average below standard, in primary and junior school. So we wanna help improve that, even if it's in a small way in Birmingham.

Lucy:

and what sort of things have you observed you're coming to the end fact is this today was, today was the last session of the pilot.

Natalie/Amber:

Yeah. So yeah, they should have, should be officially the last session, but I think we're gonna add on another week to get them to complete, cuz we haven't quite completed the book so we're gonna add on another week. over the weeks there does seem to be really good feedback, particularly from the parents actually who've noticed a difference in their kids at home. wanting to read a little more parents said she's seen an improvement in the child. I mean, it's only six weeks, so we don't expect mass improvement, but the fact that parents are seeing improvement at all, is

Lucy:

Mm.

Natalie/Amber:

positive for us. and, and you know, it's, that shows us that this is, there's a need and it's worth doing things like this. It's facilitating and making sure there's opportunity for kids to engage with different types of books, books that reflects them.

Lucy:

Can you tell me a little bit about how it's worked, partnering up with an illustrator and what, what that element of the pilot looks?

Natalie/Amber:

so Initially what we decided was, that half the session would be spent. With children learning about illustration and forming their own book, and then half would be peer to peer reading. So the illustrator would take them through a number of different techniques each session. So it, they would lo learn more about, I guess the technicalities of illustration. Maybe learn more about the skills and then they would do some exercises and practice And then by the end of the session, they would've maybe formed their own front cover, or they might have used templates that they've traced to design their front cover with images of anime characters with Afro hair or, um, with braids or dreadlock, dreadlocks things, images that looked closer to them. The children seemed to really, really engage with that. And it seems like, you know, that was the kind of like the main attraction for them was that they would get to draw and illustrate and draw probably characters they probably wouldn't have drawn otherwise or had an opportunity to draw. So yeah, that's how we kind of structured the, the class. So half illustration, half peer to peer reading.

Lucy:

That's brilliant so that you've got support from the National Literacy Trust. To run the program. is there support around the books that you have access to and that sort of thing? How is that sort of funding working out or that support.

Natalie/Amber:

yeah, so the National Literacy Trust has been brilliant. With, providing us with the light. Boxes that, the light boards that we use for the illustration and also the books that we read. So we've got a variety of books for the children which they've provided for us. And then also on our last session, we're gonna go, and buy some books with the, with the children and use some vouchers in the comic shop, which is amazing. So yeah, we definitely wouldn't have been able to have done it without them. So that was really important. In terms of this being a success, is having a good variety of books and equipment, to be able to do the sessions really. And then we also had a third party, which is the Lighthouse Youth Center, um, which is based right in the inner city, in Aston stroke, LaSelle. and that gives, the children from the local community, the ability to come to the class because they have access.

Lucy:

Yeah, I was gonna ask you about that actually. Do you think the impact has been different because it's been in a community center rather than being run in a school, for example, if you felt that that's, that's been an important distinction to have.

Natalie/Amber:

Yeah, I think so. I think regardless of what schools do or don't do, I think children definitely have this kind of negative view when it comes to school and. Even when it's fun, if it's inside a school, they feel like they're bound. They feel like there's lots of rules so I feel like it's important for them to be in an environment where they can feel a lot more comfortable and a lot more relaxed. Like they know this is for them to thrive, to be in an enjoyable environment. And a lot of the time school isn't that for kids school somewhere you have to go. There's lots and lots of rules. And the structure and, and I guess the way kids are communicated t o in school they just don't have much choice in what they wanna do. So I feel like if you take them out of that environment and into an environment that was created for them to just relax, be more comfortable and move with children their own age, I think that's definitely had a huge impact and it's just been easier.

Lucy:

And have you got children from, from different schools coming and sort of mixing with each other as well in that case?

Natalie/Amber:

Yeah, yeah, we're talking I think pretty much every child's from a different school. We've got children who are homeschooled as well. We've got a few children who are homeschooled in the session as well. So pretty much every child we've, we've had 10 children so far, and that was pretty much our, aim was to have around 10 children. So we've had 10 children come back every single week. but they're all

Lucy:

That's b.

Natalie/Amber:

schools.

Lucy:

And how has that group kind of melded together? Have you seen them interact more as the weeks have gone on? has that been a a development that you've seen as well?

Natalie/Amber:

Well, I think that they've, Integrated more in smaller groups in because we peer to peer reading in in twos or threes. I think it's probably been a little bit more of a challenge as a big group to come together. However, there has been improvement over the weeks. they're getting to know each other, Yeah, they know each other's names and they know each other's characters. So we do, we are seeing, seeing some, friendships form, over the weeks. But, you know, they're not the loudest bunch in in the world. They're quite, uh, introverted. So, for them to kind of like even do peer to peer reading out loud is, is really a big achievement. I.

Lucy:

Yeah. And how does that element work? They just pair up and read to each other. Is there discussion? Do you guide the kind of discussion or is it quite organic? What happens?

Natalie/Amber:

We put them in groups of two or three, and each one of them, Either, well, all of us, the adults, national Literacy Trust, our company, we kind of each go with the group and we have some questions written on the board that they need to be answering throughout their reading, of the texts or the pages, just to keep them engaged they do a little bit of critical thinking. I think it helps them identify different words and what they mean to identify the characters and the narrative of the story. So throughout the, throughout peer to peer reading, we might stop, them, and ask them to answer a couple of questions. Which seems to be really, really helpful. helps them to talk with each other, helps them to talk to us, helps them to understand what the book's about and to get lost in, in some of the pages really. So, yeah, that's been a great tactic.

Lucy:

Brilliant. And you mentioned your, company there. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? Does this fit in with that kind of wider work that you do there?

Natalie/Amber:

Oh yeah, this is a product a it, so it's called, I run a company called the Black Heritage Support Service. And we support the black community with, lots of things. We say life really because there's lots of struggles in life that people need. But one of the pillars of work that we do is within career development, and that starts all the way from education. black children are less likely to go into higher education for a number of reasons. So we wanna be able to intervene as early on as possible. and be that extra support mechanism for, for parents in the local community. So we run collaborative projects like this throughout the year, to support individuals or families or community centers or groups, et cetera. So if we can pilot and test it to see if it works, then it's something that we'd like to continue doing if we're seeing an impact.

Lucy:

And what's the indications at the moment? Do you think that this is something that you're gonna want to look to roll out in the future? I know you've already said you're gonna have one extra week, but, do you think this is something that you'll repeat again later on?

Natalie/Amber:

Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Without a shadow of a doubt, we've already had parents ask if we can continue it. because there's no other sessions like this, there's nothing about manga, there's nothing about anime. You know, sometimes children who are quite introverted may struggle to socialize a little bit in school, and might not find their own tribe in school. Whereas I guess here the found people, their own age with a common interest. And that's kind of reassuring for parents. So we definitely wanna, think about continuing the sessions, we wanna sustain it, we want it, we wanna maintain it, we want it to continue on.

Lucy:

Well, it sounds brilliant. It's. So clear that it is having like a real impact on, on the children that attend. Any points that you'd like to leave the listeners? A couple of takeouts maybe that we could ponder on if someone was thinking of doing the same thing or trying to replicate something in their area.

Natalie/Amber:

Yeah, I think that's the idea is that we'd love to have a bigger impact, a wider impact. So if there's schools in particular, teachers in particular, who need to engage their children with reading readings, really foundational. And so many children struggle with it. Please use this, operating model and what we're doing here. Please use this to engage children. And as parents, if your parent and, you know, similarly, you, you're struggling to get your child to read, maybe this might be a step, using comic. manga books, an anime books, even movie books, movie story books. Just getting children to find something that they relate to, whether it's images like them. It's really important and I think schools should be sourcing more books that reflect the children in their schools, but equally for parents, you know, finding things that your children like. If you've got children that's into sports football, can you find a book about sports football, even if it's a, a trivia book, anything, just get them reading

Lucy:

Yeah. That's so important. Hooking into that, that children, I would say meet children where they are. Find their interests and, and start there rather than trying to Come from a different angle, you know, if they're interested in computer games, you will find books that match them. And, and that familiarity, like you say, that that familiarity can really break down barriers, can't it? If they, they already know the characters, if they already know the setting that's already making that an easier book to get into.

Natalie/Amber:

Absolutely

Lucy:

have you become a comics reader yourself? Have you got a personal interest or is it, is this purely, uh, for inspiring the future generations?

Natalie/Amber:

No, I think it definitely has rubbed up on me. I think equally, I like my son. When I was very young, I wasn't really interested in reading for the exact same. Reasons. So helping him has definitely inspired me as well. I mean, as an adult, uh, and kind of go for university, you kind of do have to start reading, but loving reading is a different thing. So this has definitely inspired me. I love graphic novels, and graphic books, so I go to the comic shop with him and enjoy picking my own books and strips out. So yeah, it's definitely inspired me even as an adult. I think one that seems to be really popular is a book called One Piece. I think all the kids in the class seem to love that book. And my son loves that book as well, which is a, again, another Japanese, manga. So yeah, I think that would be maybe a popular one to go to.

Lucy:

Brilliant. That sounds very interesting. I am not a manga expert by any stretch of the imagination, so I usually have not heard if someone recommends manga and I haven't heard of that one, but I'm gonna look it up. the details will be in the show notes. I'll try and get ahold of a copy, and have a look too. But yeah. If it's drawing the crowds, uh, the Afri Manga book club, then that's a real seal of approval. Thank you so much for coming onto the podcast and for sharing this amazing work. It's such an exciting project and it's been really great to talk to you

Natalie/Amber:

Oh, thank you so much. Thank you for having us. We really appreciate it.

participant:

Okay. So I'm gonna ask you what I asked, um, earlier on, which is, if you had to change the big problem in this story, what would it be? Um, probably change, like the way he got his power. Okay. Can you explain to me how he got his power? He had to eat his. Okay, All right. Really. So he had to eat his hair. So what would you do then for him to get his power? Cause I'm, I'm in. I think that would be interesting to hear. I mean, any idea. Eat a finger. Eat a finger. Yes. So you're saying instead of the actual hair, maybe a, a body part? Yes. What would the, what power would he get if he was to eat his finger? The smash. The smash. Ah, what the hulk, no. Smash. Like what? Like

Lucy:

Hello Amber. Welcome to Comic Boom. So my first question I wanted to ask you is, when did you start reading comics what, and what do you like about them?

Natalie/Amber:

When I was eight probably. I detail in the art cuz I do,

Lucy:

Hmm.

Natalie/Amber:

I don't really read books, but I do have like a lot of experience with manga and anime. I like basic drawing that you can turn into anything with pencils and different stuff.

Lucy:

So you can have quite simple materials and just do quite a lot with that kind of drawing style, can't you? And so what's some of your favorite books? If you were gonna recommend some to us, what would you re.

Natalie/Amber:

I would say Pie in the Sky, cuz it's a good book and it's very meaningful. it's almost the same type of style as. normal manga book, so I would recommend it

Lucy:

And what's the storyline? What's that about? Pie in the sky? I think this, someone's mentioned that to me before, but I've not read it.

Natalie/Amber:

so I got I got it from the library, and I started reading it like a few days after I realized how good it was. So the storyline is basically he moved to Australia. With his little brother and mother. and his father died in a car crash, and he that it's because he asked him to get. His birthday cake. So now he's feeling guilty and he wants to make it up to him and basically say sorry to him. He thinks it's the reason he died. So he's making 10 cakes. When he's finished, he's feel, he feels like he's accomplished what he needs to, to avenge his father or like, um,

Lucy:

To sort of make amends.

Natalie/Amber:

yeah,

Lucy:

that sounds like a really powerful storyline. And I didn't have any clue that that was what that book was about. So that sounds really intriguing. I think I'm definitely gonna pick that one up and read it on that recommendation. Thank you. I wanted to ask you a little bit, I know you've been going to the, Afro Manga Club and I wondered what it's been like and what sort of things you've been doing.

Natalie/Amber:

So we've been doing anatomy, practice shadowing, how different shapes can make up whole picture, different shapes, how they can make body and. Different character types. And also, we've been doing, like questions about our books such as like your character's mission, your, the main ideas in your manga.

Lucy:

So has it helped you to do some of your own writing of stories? Has it, have you found it useful?

Natalie/Amber:

yeah, I'm gonna, when all all of this finishes, I'm gonna start, making my own manga books. Cause

Lucy:

really exciting.

Natalie/Amber:

that I've heard of that I really want to get in touch with and start designing and illustrating with them.

Lucy:

That's brilliant.

Natalie/Amber:

and especially since they do a lot of, publishing for authors that are black and they have their own businesses and books that I really like.

Lucy:

And how important that is that to you to be able to, to access books by black writers with, with powerful black characters in them. Is, is that something that's really important to you?

Natalie/Amber:

Yes, because for me, when I was little, there wasn't that much representation in manga or anime. So I feel like now there is, but it's not. it's not for kids now. Like they still need to make amends and they still need to make the characters child friendly so that they can see that it's not only my hero academy

Lucy:

Yeah.

Natalie/Amber:

there's a constant assassin deal put on them. there's this show, Afro Samurai. It's more than a kid's friendly, but it's about a black person, and I don't know why that is, why they had to make it.

Lucy:

So as you are looking for more stories with lots of different representation and lots of different types of characters, not just one character, one type coming all the time, but like a real range.

Natalie/Amber:

Yeah. So more uplifting comics and manga

Lucy:

Positive. Yeah.

Natalie/Amber:

for, younger black children.

Lucy:

That sounds amazing. I think you are right. I'm look forward to, to seeing more of that and I'm really excited that you're gonna be part of that as well with your own creations and your own comics and storylines too. That's, it sounds like you've been really inspired by the club too, to, to do a little bit more.

Natalie/Amber:

Yeah. When I first joined the club, I didn't really notice that, but then as we went through the weeks I did, and a lot of the people have helped, making sure that we do understand the tasks and we do understand like the basis of our books. So yeah, it's been really.

Lucy:

That's amazing. Thank you so much, Amber. Is there anything else that you would like to say to listeners?

Natalie/Amber:

I would put in that. I will be making manga books and having my own graphic design business. And, um, yeah, that's it.

Lucy:

we'll keep our eyes peeled and I really look forward to seeing all the great things that I know you're gonna go on to do. So thank you very much, Amber, for taking some time to speak to me today.

Oh, that reminds to say is my, thank you. Thank you to everyone who has been supporting season two of comic boom. For Miranda white library, mice. Richard, Rudick always a great supporter of the podcast. Matthew Tobin from Oxford Brooks. we've had retweets from Victoria Edwards broken frontier cartoon county. We have Manon Wright supporting us a, great comics, creator herself. Produce children of earth and sky comic, which I really, really enjoy. Definitely check her out. She's a really great talent and also supporter of the podcast, which is brilliant. So thanks so much for everyone. Who's been spreading the word. And. Sharing with their network. please continue to do so, so important for the podcast, like share and subscribe everybody. And don't forget to leave a review if you do. Particularly like an episode that you've heard. We're back to our more of our standard format next week, but we're staying in the world of manga to explore, the history of manga and the publishing industry that supports manga, and the translations come across to UK. Lots of really interesting detail in that interview with Lucy Forester, from Peter's books. Uh, specialists mango librarian there, really, really enjoyed chatting to her. So that is what's coming up next week. So stay tuned. Everyone have a good week. Thanks so much for listening. You've been listening to comic boom.