Raising a reader: how comics can help kids learn to love reading

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund – tireless free speech crusaders who fight for comics’ legitimacy – commissioned a great educational resource about comics’ role in literacy called Raising a Reader (PDF). This new resource is written by Dr. Meryl Jaffe, with an introduction by three-time Newbery Award honoree Jennifer L. Holm (Babymouse, Squish) and… READ THE REST

I’m looking forward to reading this.

In 1959, my third grade teacher asked us individually whether we read outside of school, and, if so, what we read. At recess, several of us shared that we had told the teacher, to her apparent disappointment, that what we read the most was comic books. But we were all smart and all excellent readers. Even then, I hoped that we were helping change our teacher’s attitude toward kids reading comic books.

I’ve always encouraged kids to read anything, and parents to be happy no matter what their kids read.


I was recovering from an eye operation after my 7th birthday and found a stack of comics in the hospital’s rec room. I devoured the stack. A few months’ later, I was reading novels by Arther C. Clarke. That was thousands of books ago

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Wait, is the answer not “read to your kids every day”?

I’ve started giving my nephew, a reluctant reader, graphic novels and he eats them up. I usually just try to find used copies when I can, but sometimes I’ll buy new. He loves it, and I love looking for them.

My nephew was read to a lot as a child but still is a reluctant reader. It happens. He’s young and busy and wants to play video games – but he does seem to love graphic novels. My niece is a big reader, just like I was, and she just started kindergarten.

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I have a (just turned) 6 year old who is doing pretty well with reading and we have a great comic store near us. Any recommendations for his age?

You can take a look at these to see if any are appropriate:

Zita the Spacegirl - Beb Hatke
Legends of Zita the Spacegirl - Beb Hatke
Flight Explorer - Kazu Kibuishi
Unico - Osamu Tezuka
Atomcat (Astro Boy) - Osamu Tezuka
Saga of Rex by Michel Gagne

My son just turned 7 and is in love with the Bone books, but those are probably too “old” for a just-turned 6 yr old… Take a look at Binky the Space Cat (and the sequels) for something he can read himself. They are funny and not too hard. There’s an interesting hybrid series of Books, the Fog Mound series – one chapter is in graphic format, the next illustrated text; it can work well with him reading the “cartoon” parts and you reading the text. My son is a massive fan of the Asterix books (which is actually what appears to have taught him to really read last year) but they aren’t to everyone’s tastes. He got started with them being read to him dramatically, but he just poured over them until he could read them himself.

I’m in Toronto and am lucky because one of the very good graphic novel/comix stores, the Beguiling, opened a sister-store devoted to kids comics, and a few books – the staff was super helpful in finding things. I’d highly recommend them to parents looking for ideas!

This CBLDF material has absolutely no bearing on “literacy” itself and doesn’t even claim to. All they claim is to advocate for how amazing and incredible “graphic novels” are; notably, without mentioning at any point the value of reading by itself. It’s weird how much of this pamphlet seems devoted to applying the “values” of reading prose to the world of comics.

Pairing graphic and prose novels together can expand literary and
communication skills. Reading these dissimilar formats on related
topics helps kids discover how prose and graphic novels can tell the
same story differently
while evaluating the pros and cons of each

For example, Marvel has a wonderful Oz series that parallels Frank
Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Frankly, any Oz graphic novel and any Oz novel are fundamentally different things, with different purposes and audiences. All graphic literature has always piggybacked on the annoying “prestige” of being called “literature”. This is just another example.

There’s absolutely no link between the consumption of one art with the comsumption of another. Prose readers won’t necessarily consume comics, just as classical music lovers won’t necessarily love Kanye West. Teaching your kids to love comics will make them love and appreciate comics. Parents should lie to themselves, or be lied to by others. Frankly, your kids will love what you love. They mimic incessantly. If you are giving your kids long graphic novels in the hopes that it will transition them to prose somehow, that’s weird.

Both of my kids became avid readers via comics and graphic novels. Our public library has an amazing selection and always responds to requests for purchase. The kids and I have started a comic review site: http://coolcomicsforkids.com. It’s a way to share our hobby – and it’s my sneaky way to get them to write more!

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I grew up being read to and loving to read. But I also grew up reading lots of comic books.

I remember sitting in my college chem class when my prof walked in and she saw me reading a comic book “Ah, I see you have some fine ill-literature today.” I balked at the insult and quickly recovered explaining that the first time I read War of the Worlds was at 7 as a comic book.

As a sixth grade teacher I never banned comic books, graphic novels or anything (well, no porn, etc) from my classroom. The students had required reading yes, but when it was DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time they could read what they wanted. I didnt’ care, they were reading.

The way to foster a love of reading is to let people read things they are interested in and want to read.

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