Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Sunday Salon - Comic Books and Literacy

The Sunday

Yesterday was Free Comic Book Day. For those of you not familiar with the day, it is the first Saturday in May and comic book stores in the US and Canada (not sure if this exists elsewhere as well) can participate buy purchasing special comic books prepared by publishers which they in turn give to their patrons for free. The books can be anthologies or snippets of various popular series and indie titles, whatever the publishers wish to put out for that year. Stores may have different policies, some stores may only give out one book, others may give out several, some go all-out and dress up and have giveaways and barbecues.My husband and I love Free Comic Book Day, and we make it a point to go every year. We pick up the freebies and pick up any issues of comics we've missed out on (we love comics but find it difficult to make it to the store once a month like the regulars do).

The store we normally go to was completely crazy when we went yesterday, but in a good way; they had an artist signing, the freebie table, as well as their usual selection of stuff. It was great, I saw kids with their parents picking up copies of the Bone series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and the usual manga crowd. There were a ton of adults there too without kids, but seeing the kids with the comics reminded me of when we took our nephews one year (we take them on our geeky excursions to further corrupt their impressionable minds). Our oldest nephew is out of the comic phase, and our younger one prefers novels now, but there was a time when they were younger when the only things these kids would read were comics and manga, and me being their teacher aunt, did everything I could to encourage them to read regardless of what they wanted to read. This continues even now, I'm probably one of the only mothers/aunts etc. that buys books for my teenage nephew rather than video games (I'm not a total prude, I do buy them video games too, but I like to think they appreciate them both equally). I was pleased at the comic book store we frequented, they had a special where they offered 4 free books to every customer, but if you had a library card on you, you could take 8 freebies. The store itself supplies our local public and school libraries with comic and graphic novel titles, so this was pleasing to see them incorporate that into Free Comic Book Day.

I constantly tell other teachers and parents to supply their students/children with age-appropriate comics or graphic novels if they have a struggling or reluctant reader, some kids just need visuals to go with the text, our oldest nephew was like that. Boys especially appreciate these literary formats, but a lot of people protest that they aren't "real" reading and that all kids should be reading novels. I find this to be plain old-fashioned, and that we should encourage kids to read anything appropriate for their age and maturity level, be it instruction manuals, magazines, comics, novels, advertisements, anything that gets them interested in reading and has them using their literacy skills. As with our nephews, they eventually found other formats they liked and moved on from just reading comics, but at that time, it worked for them. There are lots of comics and graphic novels appropriate for kids, and there are some made just for adults, but a comic book store should be able to point you in the right direction, or a teacher or librarian with some knowledge of them. If you think your child or student may be the type to just dive right into comics or graphic novels or manga and never look back, find kiddie-friendly titles and encourage them to read them, you might even find some titles and read them yourself, comics today are way more than just superheroes in tights.

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