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A Comparison of Comic Book and Non-Comic Book Readers of the Elementary School

Author(s): Florence Heisler


Source: The Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 40, No. 6 (Feb., 1947), pp. 458-464
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27528820
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A COMPARISON OF COMIC BOOK AND NON-COMIC BOOK
READERS OF THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Florence Heisler
Eastern Washington College of Education
Cheney, Washington
Editor's Note: The author is concerned with the effects of reading
comic books. No educational differences were discovered between readers and
non-readers of comic books.
PROBLEM

The problem of this investigation reported in this paper was to find


if children who read comic books to an excess differed from those who did
not indulge in this activity. The factors considered were chronological
age, mental age, educational achievement, socio-economic status, social ad
justment, and personal adjustment.

PROCEDURE

The children considered in this study included all the pupils in the
Farmingdale, New York, Elementary and Junior High School except those
in the first grade and those whose records were incomplete. (Grades seven
and eight were included in the junior high school.) Six hundred of the
six hundred and thirty-five children enrolled were used in the study.
It was necessary in selecting the tests to choose those that had com
parable forms for the primary, intermediate, and junior high-school grades,
as well as those tests that were highly reliable. To obtain a mental age level,
the primary and intermediate forms of the California Short-Form Test of
Mental Maturity were administered. The California Test of Personality was
used to arrive at a numerical evaluation of personality. The primary and
intermediate levels of the Stanford Achievement Test measured school
progress. An inventory was constructed by the author to ascertain the comic
books read by each child. This inventory included the names of all the
comic books found on the ordering lists of the village newsstands. The
accuracy of this inventory was checked by personal interviews with the
children and in many cases with the parents or siblings. R. O. Beckman's1
Classification was used to indicate the socio-economic level. Each of the
main headings of this classification was numbered, the unskilled level being,

1W. Bingham, Aptitude and Aptitude Testing. New York: Harper and Brothers
Publishers, 1937, p. 97.
458

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Feb., 1947] COMIC BOOK AND NON-COMIC BOOK READERS 459

one; the semi-skilled, two; the skilled, three; the sub-professional, four; and
the professional and managerial, five.
Children in each grade who did not read comic books were compared
with an equal or nearly equal number of children of the same grade who
read the greatest number of such books (see Table I for a distribution of
the children reading the various number of comic books for each grade).
Means were computed for the subtests in word meaning, average reading,
and language, as well as the total score of the achievement battery. Means
were computed for the intelligence scale, the personality test, and the comic
book inventory. Mean chronological age, mean number of library books
owned (books other than comic books read for information or enjoyment),
and mean parental occupational level were also computed for each group of
every grade.
Table I
Number of Comic Books Read per Child per Week for Each Grade

Grade Number of Comic Books Read

15*
1

* The number in this column means fifteen or more. About twenty were read by two children in
grade five, two in grade seven, and one in grade, eight.

RESULTS

Table II gives the achievement test means and the ? for the Comic
Book and the Non-Comic Book Readers. The total achievement means for
the Non-Comic Book Readers exceed those of the Comic Book Readers on
every level except those of the third and fourth grades. Superiority of the
subtest means in word meaning, average reading, and language agree with
superiority of the total score. The ? for each set of means ranges from
.00 to .30. This shows that where the difference is most significant the
chances are only 62 in 100 that the true difference is greater than zero.
In chronological age the means of both groups are the same in grade
two; higher for the Non-Comic Book groups in grades three and eight; and
lower for the Non-Comic Book Readers of grade four, ?ve, six, and seven.

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460 JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH [Vol. 40, No. 6

Table II
Stanford Achievement Means for the Comic Book and Non-Comic Book
Readers of Grades Two through Eight
Grade

Two Three Four


Test
Comic Comic Comic
Non Read Non Read Non Read
Comicl ers Comicers Comicers

Word Meaning. 28.9 24.9 .30 23.4 26.2 .27 40.7 41.6 .04
Av. Reading_ 28.5 24.8 .28 23.2 25.7 .24 39.2 43.1 .11
Language*_ 45.7 48.5 .11
Total. 26.7 23.1 .30 24.1 26.1 40.8 42.8 .09

* There is no language test in the primary battery.

Table II?Continued

Five Six Seven Eight


Test
Comic Comic Comic Comic|
Non Read Non Read Non Read Non Read
Comicers Comicl ers Comicl ers Comic

Word Meaning. 49.1 49.9 .03 61.3 52.9 .30 60.6 59.1 .06 69.6 67.6 .07
Av. Reading_ 49.8 49.6 .00 59.9 54.9 .18 60.2 58.1 .07 69.1 68.2 .05
Language*_ 54.0 50.6 .13 62.5 57.3 .17 64.6 59.4 .19 72.0 66.4 .18
Total _ 59.7 57.9 .10 69.3 .05

* There is no language test in the primary battery.

Mean total M. A. as given in Table III is higher for the Comic Book
Readers in the second, third, and fourth, but lower in the remaining grades.
Mean language M. A. superiority agrees with total superiority on every
grade level. Non-language M. A.'s are higher for the Non-Comic groups
in grades two, five, seven, and for the Comic Book Readers in grades three,
four, six, and eight.
In every instance except in the second grade, higher mean achievement
goes with higher mean mental age. The differences for chronological age
and mental age, like those of achievement are not significant.
According to the California Test of Personality percentiles (see
Table IV), Total Self Adjustment, Total Social Adjustment, and Total
Adjustment are higher for the Non-Comic Readers in grades three through
seven. In the eighth grade the Comic Readers exceed in all three totals,

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Feb., 1947] COMIC BOOK AND NON-COMIC BOOK READERS 461

while in grade two they are superior only in Total Self Adjustment. How
ever, here too, reliability is low. 1.12 (86 chances in 100 for the mean to
be greater than zero) is the largest ? .
Table III
Chronological Age and California Test of Mental Maturity Mental Age
Means for Grades Two through Eight
Grade
Two Three Four
Test
Comic Comic Comic]
Non Read Non Read Non Read
Comicl ers Comicers Comic]

Non-Lang. M. A.. 7-7 7- 5 .07 7- 7 8-2 .16 9-8 10-11 .23


Language M. A._. 7-6 8- 0 .12 8- 0 8-6 .16 10-6 10-10 .14
Total M. A_ 7-7 7-10 .04 7-10 8-5 .16 10-3 10-11 .19
C. A.. .14 9- 3 9-8 9- 9 .03

Table III?Continued
Five Six Seven Eight
Test
Comic Comic Comic Comic
Non- I Read Non Read Non Read Non Read
Comicl ers Comicl ers Comic ers Comicl ers

Non-Lang. M. A
11- 1 9-10 .24 11.1 11-5 .04 12-2 12- 0 .02 12-2 13-9 .10
Language M. A12- 2 11-9 .22 13-8 12-5 .45 13-4 13- 0 .16 14-6 14-0 .05
Total M. A_ 11-10 11-1 .20 13-3 12-3 .22 13-3 12-11 .09 14-4 14-2 .01
C. A.. 10-10 11-6 .13 11-4 11-8 .06 13-3 13-9 .09 14-0 13-1 .15

The book means as given in Table V are higher in grades three and
?ve for the Non-Comic Book Readers and in the other grades for the
Comic Book group. Superiority of the individual groups is not important
here, however, as there was large variation in the number of books owned
in every group.
In the parent's socio-economic status (see Table VI), the Non-Comic
groups are higher in all but the fourth and eighth grades. The differences
vary from .2 to .7 of a point.
SUMMARY AND FINDINGS

From the Means and the ? of


CD
the Stanford Achievement Test and
the California Test of Mental Maturity one can conclude that th
significant difference between the achievement of the Comic

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462 JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH [Vol. 40, No. 6

Comic Readers. When the achievement means for the Non-Comic Readers
was higher, it was found that the mean mental age was also high. In no
case was the ~ greater than .45. This shows that in the instance where
the difference was most significant the chances were only 67 in 100 that
the true difference was greater than zero.
The differences in the means for chronological age, mental age,
parental social-economic status, and number of books owned were not
consistent throughout the seven grades. The significant difference in all
cases was below 1.12.

The ~ for each set of percentile means for the California Test of
Personality was low; however, the superiority except in the eighth grade
was all in favor of the Non-Comic Readers.

Table IV
California Test of Personality Mean Percentiles for the Comic Book
and Non-Comic Book Readers
Grade

Two Three Four


Test
Comic Comic| Comicl
Non Read-] Non Read Non Read
Comic' ers Comicl ers Comic] ers

Total Self Adjustment-.. 58.5 59.0 .05 67.5 55.5 .17 58.0 46.0 .17
Total Social Adjustment. 65.5 61.5 .04 79.5 56.5 .30 37.5 31.5 .09

Total Adjustment_ 64.5 60.0 76.0 .24 49.0 41.2 .3*

Table IV?Continued

Five Six Seven Eight


Test
Comic Comic] Comic] Comic]
Non Read-| Non Read Non Read Non Read
Comicj ers Comicj Comicl ers Comicl ers

Total Self Adjust .79 50.5 64.2 .24


ment_ 51.8 43.5 .18 69.8 47.5 .33 54.6 37.9
Total Social Adjust .03
ment_ 51.0 26.5 .12 72.8 44.8 .28 48.5 25.4 .771 46.5 48.5
Total Adjustment.. 43.2 35.0 .15 73.3 47.4 .30 52.3 31.8 1.12 49.8 61.0 .08

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Feb., 1947] COMIC BOOK AND NON-COMIC BOOK READERS 463

Table V
Mean Number of Books Owned by the Comic and Non-Comic Readers
Grade

Two Three Four


Comic D Comic D Comic
Non Read Non Read Non- ' Read
Comicl ers (TDComic| ers O-D Comic] ers

Book Means*. 6.8 12.1 .72 18.4 8.5 6.8 .91

* This means books other than comics.

Table V?Continued

Five Six Seven Eight


Test
Comic Comic Comic| ComicD
Non Read Non Read Non Read Non Read
Comic! ers Comic) ers Comicl Comic ers

Book Means*. .93 .37 21.7 .47 15.8 22.2

* This means books other than comics.

Table VJ
Beckman Classification Socio-Economic Means for t
and Non-Comic Readers
Grade

Two Three Four


Test
Comic D Comic D Comic D
Non Read Non Read Non Read
Comic1 ers Comicl ers ffO Comicl ers o-D

Level Mean. .20 2.8 .33 2.3 3.2 .66

Table VI?Continued

Five Six Seven Eight


Test
Comic Comic Comic Comic D
Non Read Non Read Non Read Non Read
Comicl ers Comicl ers Comic| ers Comicl ers (TO

Level Mean. 3.4 2.8 2.8 2.6 .19 2.9 .08

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464 JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH [Vol. 40, No. 6

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS

According to the results of this study, the reading of comic books


seemed to have no effect educationally on the children. In both the Comic
and the Non-Comic groups there were those who read well and those who
read poorly, those who made high scores on the English test and those
who did not, those who had large vocabularies and those who had small.
The reason for this may be that much of the comic book experience was
picture reading which did little to improve or retard language or reading
development. Or, it may be that the children learned much from the comics
but that this achievement was not measured by the tests administered. It
would seem that for some children the first explanation was correct while
for others it was the second.

The results of the study give very little help in determining just why
some children are attracted to the comics while others are not. Intelligence
seems to be ruled out as a factor since there were bright, average, and dull
children among those of both the Comic and Non-Comic groups. Reading
ability and size of the home library, too, seemed to have no influence. Per
sonality was the only area where a difference appeared and this difference
was not significant. Even if this difference were significant, one would have
no way of telling whether the more poorly adjusted children were more
likely to participate in comic book reading than others or whether the per
sonality difference was the result of the comic book reading.

QUESTIONS FOR FUTURE INVESTIGATIONS

In spite of the fact that the findings of this study are inconclusive,
some questions are raised as a result of it. They are:
1. Would more intensive personality testing of larger groups of Comic
and Non-Comic Readers reveal significant differences?
2. If significant differences were found in personality, it would seem
that further study would be necessary to determine whether maladjusted
children preferred to read comic books, or, whether the comic books caused
the maladjustment.
3. Would normal personality development be more apt to suffer as
a result of comic book reading if the children were of the more suggestible
type?

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