Humanities Lab programs mirror the spirit of the NJCH Incubation Grant program.


ComicLit engages urban youth learners, age 10 to 17, in a creative process to reinforce the basic artistic, reading, writing, and comprehension skills needed for success in school, work, and in life.



Comic book illustrations are instrumental in promoting reading comprehension through the sequential nature of the artwork, which requires several high-level thinking skills. In a comic book, the illustrations are just as important to comprehension as the words and thus learners must use the details in the text and illustrations to understand the comic panels they are reading or arrange their own comic panels sequencing.


When reading a comic book, learners must read between the lines, which teaches them to draw inferences and synthesize information. When learners understand the purpose behind drawing inferences and synthesizing information, they have the motivation, knowledge, skills, and ability to use these strategies independently in a variety of textual situations.


Comic books require readers to visualize because many comic writers create vivid story-pictures along with expressive language. Comic books cause readers to visualize without realizing they are using this cognitive strategy. When reading a comic book, readers must interact with both text and images, and they do so innately out of authentic interest in the text and illustrations.


Comic books contain basic story elements such as setting, characters, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Each panel in a comic book represents a paragraph and narrative sentences that are representative of topic sentences. The details appear in both the words of the characters and the images. Learners use these guidelines to create comic panels of their own, which with the addition of details, may be turned into detailed narrative paragraphs.


Comics are not limited to the traditional superhero characters. In ComicLit learners have read:
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan, a wordless graphic novel that tells the story of an immigrant arriving in a strange new land to find work in support of his family
  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier, an autobiographical graphic novel about growing up as a tween


Graphic novels have been chosen for the program by:
  • Dr. Maryanne Rhett, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern, World History and Comic Books at Monmouth University
  • Regine Sawyer, comic book author, publisher, and founder of the Women in Comic Collective
  • Alitha Martinez, An artist who has drawn Marvel’s Iron Man, X-men, Marvel Age Fantastic Four, Black Panther and Voltron, as well as illustrating three graphic novels for younger readers and teens.


ComicLit programming runs one Saturday per month at the Paterson Free Public Library.

HUMANITIES LAB programs are often experimental and exploratory. Much like our Incubation Grant program, we bring the Humanities Lab concept into organization collaboratives to foster the development of programs that suit the needs of the particular community.

At NJCH, we believe that community members should influence and steer how public humanities programs unfold in their own communities. It's driven by what the community identifies as necessary and beneficial, which increases the likelihood of real impact.

Black & Blue Together
Comic Book Literacy

Jason Allen
Director of Community Engagement 
609.695.4838, ext 220