The U.S. Constitution: What If You Could Explain the Crafting of This Document in Less Than an Hour?

The U.S. Constitution: What If You Could Explain the Crafting of This Document in Less Than an Hour?
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The United States Constitution is one of the most influential political documents of all time, and it is the cornerstone that supports our liberty.

Whether you're a parent, a teacher, or an interested citizen, what if you could explain the Constitution and the disagreements that led to its crafting in about an hour?

Round Table Companies, a publishing company, has done just that by assigning to a writer and an artist the challenge of creating a graphic adaptation to explain the writing of the United States Constitution and the effort the founding fathers exerted to ratify it.

"The comic includes 100 percent of the original Constitution text as well as an illustrated storyline that depicts how the founding fathers created the document," notes David Cohen, vice president and chief strategist at Round Table. "We believe in the power of story to engage, so narratives of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Thomas Paine and James Madison bring in a human component, vital to understanding the development of each article in The Constitution."

While there were no founding mothers who actually took part in the convention in Philadelphia, Round Table and the comic's creators have included women as part of the process that looks to the future. A female in period clothes is used to depict several of the explanations concerning the power of the Constitution, and women are represented in the sections that address Congress and its responsibilities. There's no changing the all-male past but it's good to see both genders represented going forward.

Comprehension in Less than an Hour

What takes a reader under an hour to absorb represents a couple of years of preparation on the part of adapter Nadja Baer who scripted this adaptation of the story of the Constitution. Art was supplied by Nathan Leuth.

"While the challenge of presenting the story clearly and simply meant that some detail had to be omitted, I wanted to remain true to what the men were discussing that hot summer in Philadelphia," says Nadja Baer. "I read first-hand accounts of what transpired and then went on to read what historians had to say about the era and the work underway at the Constitutional Convention. I then read six of seven biographies of the men who would be featured in the story. I then moved on to read several books about both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights so that I was working with a solid foundation of knowledge." (A bibliography is included within the comic itself.)

If students can read the story and absorb the detail without struggle, then this leaves classroom time open for discussion, and that's where Professor Katie Monnin comes in.

Dr. Monnin, an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida, and a consultant at Maupin House, a publisher specializing in K-12 teacher resources, was hired to work on the project, and she developed a classroom curriculum (distributed at no charge) to use with the comic. It is intended to help teachers bring student discussion to the next level of understanding--a particular gift at a time when fewer and fewer schools are teaching civics.

For Dr. Monnin, the project offered an opportunity to help a company practice what she preaches: "Literacy research shows that we are living through the greatest communication revolution of all time. Just as the printing press transformed communication, all of the technologies that are being released are creating a similar transformation for us now.

"With the teaching options available today, it is vital that we use both images and text," says Dr. Monnin. "For a long time, we have known that kids learn on more than one level. Today both schools and publishers are beginning to embrace the fact that material needs to be presented both in text and as a visual in order to seal in learning for the students.

"I have worked with graphic novels for over ten years now, and I am most proud of this behind-the-scenes look at the Constitution," adds Dr. Monnin. "This book represents an amazing level of scholarship. It is 100 percent accurate to the Constitution, yet there is a modern feel that makes it relevant to life today. "

Comic or Graphic Novel?
Round Table seems to use the term "comic" but many would call this a "graphic novel."
"Clearly this is a factual story," says Dr. Monnin. "The industry uses the term 'graphic novel' to distinguish these multi-layered factual works from a comic, which we think of as more static. Even librarians seem okay with the term 'graphic novel' to reference both fiction and nonfiction stories that include images."

The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation launches in bookstores nationwide and on Amazon and all digital formats in March 2012 for $12.95 (print) and $6.99 (digital).

Round Table Companies was started by Corey Michael Blake, who started Round Table to provide executives with writers; he soon found there was interest in creating even more efficient ways for readers to access information. Blake was soon joined by former filmmaker David Cohen who brought a visual storytelling sense to the company. The result was creating graphic novels of books such as Chris Anderson's The Long Tail and Mi Barrio: From the Barrio to the Boardroom by Robert Renteria, which has brought the company into the educational market; the book has been widely used around the country in schools and youth prisons to inspire at-risk youth.

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