A leading Canadian comic retailer for over 20 years, Jenn Haines has been an active and vocal supporter of the comics industry and the role comics and comic shops have in their communities. She established the Comics in the Classroom initiative to help educators use comics and graphic novels in their classrooms to improve student literacy. From the initiative’s mandate:
To a reluctant reader or an English Language Learner, a prose text can be incredibly daunting; it is a wall of words, overwhelming to start, impossible to finish. The key to getting these learners to read is to engage their imagination and interest. Comics are a perfect vehicle. They divide up the text into manageable chunks, which are supported by images. These images help readers increase their vocabulary through the connection between words and images. Comics are especially useful for English Language Learners from Korea, China, and Japan, for whom comics are an inherent part of their culture. By offering a style of reading with which these students are familiar, they will be more willing to make the effort to read. The bottom line is getting them to read. Thus, it is better to offer a graphic adaptation of a prose novel covered in class to those reluctant readers, to allow all students to participate in discussions and unit work, rather than have some students fall behind and be unable to participate at all.
She also established the Dragon Award for Comics aimed at Younger Readers that is handed out annually and has worked with educators to review and select the nominees and winners in this category and recognize an important part of the Canadian comics landscape.
We have relied on Jenn as an advisor to the Joe Shuster Awards since their inception in 2004 and in 2019 she served on the jury for the Will Eisner Comic Book Industry Awards.