Tony Preciado and Rhode Montijo can write a mean sentence…or at least a grammatically correct one. And the Mexican-American artists have decided to use their skills for good to help students who may be struggling in school.
Now more than ever, students face a tougher challenge to learn grammar due to the rise in the widespread use of communications technology. In an age where texting has created its own form of shorthand, understanding subjects, punctuation marks, and parts of speech be confusing for elementary and middle school students.
Even without the added confusion that texting brings to the issue, grammar can sometimes be a difficult subject for kids to understand. No one knows this better than special effects artist Tony Preciado, who had a very difficult time learning English grammar. It wasn’t until he was in college and had to take a remedial English class that he finally started to understand and truly grasp the basics of proper English grammar. And once he mastered them, Preciado says he was struck by the burning question: “Why was English grammar so hard for me when I was a kid in grade school?”
It wasn’t long before this question led to another, more life-changing one: “How can I help make learning grammar easier, especially for kids who might be struggling with it?”
Then one day, Preciado says the idea of Super Grammar just hit him, though he says he didn’t take it very seriously at first. “I mean, who actually thinks to themselves, ‘I want to write a grammar book!’” But the idea just wouldn’t go away.
So when Tony Preciado pitched his idea to create Super Grammar to his friend and illustrator, Rhode Montijo, the latter immediately agreed. “At a young age I realized that I was a visual learner (I learned English watching Sesame Street),” Montijo says. “But I also soon realized that there weren’t many options for visual learners, so when Tony told me about Super Grammar, I knew that we had to do it.”
Preciado and Montijo, who met while working on the movie James and the Giant Peach, joined forces and formed Illustrating the Point. Their first project has been to create Super Grammar, a comic book based on superheroes whose mission is to fight bad grammar.
The book takes those hard-to-understand grammar concepts – subjects, predicates, punctuation marks, and parts of speech – and presents them as individual superheroes. Each one has specific powers to help students learn the grammar rules associated with each concept. For example, the Completion Team consists of two superheroes – the Subject and the Predicate – and together they form a complete sentence. The Subject has four super powers (including those of number, compound, and invisibility) that help him accomplish his goal. Preciado and Montijo have done an excellent job of using the superhero theme to explain each concept in simple terms with visual examples.
Kids have to watch out for the supervillains, also known as the Sabotage Squad, who sneak around trying to destroy grammatically correct sentences. For example, the Double Negative team has the power to make you say the exact opposite of what you mean…until you know how they work!
The best thing about the book is the simple layout that introduces each superhero and their super powers, then provides sample sentences so that students can see how the concept/superhero actually works.
Super Grammar is their first book in the Illustrating the Point series. Preciado says they would love to create another grammar book that continues where this one ends, as well as some Super Grammar-style workbooks that offer kids a chance to practice the grammar concepts they’ve learned in the book. Montijo also dreams of bringing Super Grammar to life as an educational animated show.
But for the moment, their mission is to spread the news about Super Grammar to parents and teachers who can use the book to help their children and students who may be struggling with grammar concepts. And parents who are simply looking to supplement their child’s curriculum, or who want to make learning more fun, may find this book to be the perfect answer.
Montijo says it best: “We decided that our goal would be to make Super Grammar the kind of grammar book that we wish we had when we were kids.”
Monica Olivera Hazelton, NBC Latino contributor and the founder and publisher ofMommyMaestra.com, a site for Latino families that homeschool, as well as families with children in a traditional school setting who want to take a more active role in their children’s education. She is the 2011 winner of the “Best Latina Education Blogger” award by LATISM.