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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Get Your Kids Reading!

Are you looking for a way to get your kids (or illiterate friends) into reading?  Comics offer an easy way to make kids excited about reading for themselves. Here is a possible map to success.

0. Read to your kids!  
There's nothing that can truly substitute for this experience.  Show them reading is fun, go crazy with the onomatopoeia, be animated, use voices with characters.  By watching you, they will also learn the mechanics of reading.  Pointing to the words or drawing attention to specific letters will all help them down the road, so try to do it intermittently.  If you are occasionally crunched for time, you supplement with some episodes of Super Why (on PBS).

1. Polo/ Owly

Both of these series are text-less. The stories are carried in a purely graphic form.  By reading stories like this, children learn to look at panels in a  sequence.  Also, this can be their first chance to enjoy a story on their own.  Stage One gives them a chance to experience the story and then tell you about it.  Watching a child do this is ten times better than anything you'll find on tv.

2. Tiny Titans/ Johnny Boo
These may seem like a bit of a jump from the first stage, but this is a process.  Your child will not be able to fly through this on their first attempt.  Each of these series contain stories that are short and easy to approach.  Stage Two is about breaking things down.  You can pick a large word and divide it into small parts.  When they get good at sounding things out that way, they won't give up when they see the word "Treehouse".  Don't be afraid to mark up your books to give them reading cues.

3. Usagi Yojimbo/ Magic Trixie
At Stage Three, your kids have mastered the basic skills of reading. With these series, they are getting a little less silliness and a bit more humanity.  There is a range of emotions for both the characters and readers to work through.  Actions and consequences are shown in the stories and it's good for the kids to see.  Cultural and societal exposure comes from all forms of media and comics should not be discounted. 

4.  Bone/ Amelia Rules
This level is similar to the previous one.  Stage Four books have a higher concentration of words per panel.  The stories and concepts are a bit deeper as well, so don't be surprised if readers at this stage start to ask more questions about the characters.  Taking the time to explain actions and consequences with kids is greatly beneficial, whether it's in a book or in time out.

5. Marvel Illustrated Series/ Diary of a Wimpy Kid
With the other books, the young readers worked through worlds full of fantasy and silliness.  In Stage Five, kids can look at characters with a bit more realism to them.  The range of the tone is still vast, but put into a new context.  Teach kids how to relate the world in their head to the world around them.  Seeing less of the black and white that is shown in some stories and learning the shades of gray is important to their literary development just as much as their psychological development.  They will continue to judge the characters for their actions, holding them accountable from their own view point.

As your kids work through this process, take the time to listen when they tell you what they are reading.  Asking questions about what they would change or what their favorite part, enhances the experience for them and highlights creativity.

Get those kids reading, so a trip to the comic shop can be a family experience. When they get here, they just might ask for that $3 comic instead of the $20 toy.

- Ryan

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