My two daughters struggled a bit with early reading. They were perfectly capable, but they lacked the motivation to really immerse themselves in books. For both of them, but especially my 13 year old, comic books provided a stepping stone from cardboard picture books to text only books. I thought my approach was odd, but effective, until they had a panel at Salt Lake Comic Con on the topic.
I Learned to Read Because of Comics
The second panel I attended on raising geeks was specifically about using comic books to help children read. This panel, as I mentioned earlier, was of great interest to me due to personal experience. Comic books bridged a much needed gap in my children developing into full readers.
The panelists were Andrew Malin (comic buyer and professor, moderator), Trent Hunsaker (comic store owner), Chris Bodily (illustrator), and Shannon Barnson (school teacher).
Andrew opened the discussion talking about his own bad experiences. He started to read fine, but had a less than supportive teacher in his early years. He did not read another full book for enjoyment until he was in high school. Several of the other panelists had a similar early frustrations. Comic books provided many of these people with the enjoyment of reading and bridged into more advanced reading, including many classics.
Shannon uses comic books in his classroom to help his students learn to read. He mentioned that the comic books provide a context to the text and therefore makes it easier on a student who is trying to learn to read. He uses it greatly in ESL teaching as well.
Another benefit that was mentioned of comic book reading is that it appeals to students who learn from various methods. If your child is a visual learner or a kinesthetic (hands-on) learner, they are often not fulfilled from traditional educational methods. Comic books provide an alternate means of teaching children who learn better using these techniques.
The key to reading is providing your child with something they want to read. The entire panel agreed on this point, and I agree entirely. My children learned to enjoy reading through different comic books. My 13 year old learned to read with X-men. My 9 year old embraced My Little Pony.
The panel suggested trying:
DC Brave and Bold
Marvel Unlimited (subscription, on-demand)
Diamondbookshelf.com (resource with teaching guides using comics)
Superheroes – PBS series available on Netflix
The panel, and several of the attendees, brought up suggestions to help bring comic books into our libraries and schools. When comic books are grouped into an anthology, they are given an ISBN like any other book. Many libraries have a way of suggesting books to add to their collection.
Another way to get involved is forming clubs and groups to help exchange and nourish the hobby. This enables voices of fans to become united and help their community realize the demand for comic books. Additionally, Girl Scouts has a badge for Cadette level girls to create their own comic books. Many comic book stores are very excited to have groups like this visit and are very willing to help.
Comic books provide an excellent resource to help those struggling with reading. Whether this is due to bad experiences or just a lack of interest, they can bridge the gap between board books and full text novels. There are several great comic books out there to help and many enthusiasts willing to make suggestions. Get your children to embrace reading by helping them find something they will enjoy.