Kids and Comics

Reading is very important.  I think that goes without saying.  And as comic book fans, it is obvious that we like to read.  You can’t just look at the pretty pictures forever, without reading the story to find out what is going on.

Getting kids to read at an early age is important as well.  There are lots of great children’s books available, but I think comic books are a great reading tool as well.

When you go into your local comic book shop, do you ever notice how many kids are in there?  Sometimes not too many.

There are challenges for comic book shops to help attract the child customer.  One challenge is the parents.  If a parent is not interested in comic books, it is unlikely that they will make the venture into the comic book shop with their children.  The comic book shop then has to make the effort to make the parent feel comfortable to bring their children into the comic shop.  When I take my kids into my local comic shop (I have 3 kids), the people who work at the store treat my kids like they are regular customers.  They don’t talk to them like they are children.  They don’t ignore them when my kids are telling them a story.  They ask my kids what their interests are, and listen to their stories.

Treating a kid with respect is important.  Many times kids are often ignored at other retail stores, and a lot of times the parents are ignored as well.  There have been several times when I’ve walked out of a store with my wife, because the staff wouldn’t give us the time of day.  On a few of those occasions my wife has put her purchase back on the shelf because she didn’t like the way we were treated, and the store lost a $100 sale (I had the cash in my hand).  So treating the whole family with respect is a good way to help promote sales in your store.

Free Comic Book Day is another great event to promote comics to kids

Another thing I do to get my kids interested in comics is designate one day a month (usually) that we go to the comic book shop as a family.  We call it “Comic Book Sunday”.  I let the kids look around and pick out a couple of books that they’d like to buy.  Sometimes the books are trashed before we even get home, but they enjoy it.  My son especially likes Comic Book Sunday.  He has a short box in his room and he hides away all his comics and reads through them all the time.  As a parent you have to watch what your children want.  This past week my daughter grabbed a copy of Wolverine and I had to tell her to put it back because it wasn’t appropriate for her.  It was a very violent issue and I had to explain to her that if she wanted to read Wolverine, she’d best pick out an X-Men comic.  My son has learned that even though Deadpool is cool in movies and videogames, it isn’t appropriate for him to read Deadpool.  It is too mature for him, which got me thinking: there is Deadpool Max, why not Deadpool All Ages?

One promotion that Big B Comics (my local shop) is running that will get kids interested in comics is the “Free Comics For A’s” program.  At report card time, if a kid brings in a report card with A’s on it, they’ll get a free comic book for every A on their report card.  This is a great promotion.  And kids love anything that’s free.  I was proud of my kids this year because between my two kids that are in school they had 10 A’s.  They worked very hard this year on getting good grades.  They also worked very hard at school telling all their classmates about the free comic books they got.

I was told that the program may change.  Instead of A’s, the program will reward an improvement in your grades.  So for example if you got a C in math, and were able to improve your grade to a B, you would be rewarded with a free comic book.  I like this idea more.  It is a fact of life that some kids, no matter how hard they try, will not get an A on their report card.  At least this idea will reward their hard work, even though they just can’t seem to get that A.

Getting kids interested in comics is important for literacy of our youth and supporting your local comic book shop.  I know there are lots of ways to get kids interested, and I have only touched on a couple.  What does your local shop do, to help promote comics to young people?  Have your say in the comments below.

Ed Campbell
Ed Campbell

Ed Campbell is a collector of comics and action figures, primarily G.I. Joe. He is also a Cosplayer with Thor and Captain America as just a few of the characters in his arsenal. When not fulfilling his Comic Book Daily duties, he's "working for a living", volunteering his time for his local Fall Fair, and spending as much time with his family as possible. Use the links below to get in contact with him.

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  1. I agree with you 100%, Ed! Working in a library, I frequently hear parents telling their children to put the comics back because they aren’t “real books”. Parents put a lot of pressure on their kids to read novels and classics without caring too much about what the kids want to read. I’m a firm believer in letting them read what they’re going to enjoy – and even though comics don’t have as many words per page as novels, it’s still reading! And they like it!

  2. Getting kids interested in comics is important for literacy of our youth

    I have to respectfully disagree. Wow Ed, I don’t know how you can make such a statement. I’ve got 3 kids of my own and they often show an interest in comics because they see it all around house. I’ve picked up some Tiny Titans for them and some Archies, but generally, I’d prefer if they didn’t read comics (at least for now).

    There is a huge misconception in the industry by comparing comics to novels. The two are vastly different and the fact that some comic readers are unable to tell the difference pretty much supports my case.

    The main issue I have is the “nutritional” value of comics or the lack there of. First of all, most comics are not written for kids and the ones that are have been dumbed down. Scooby Doo or Archie has little going for it beyond that of the Sunday funnies. Once my kids are older and they’re able to understand why the Punisher is getting chopped up by Wolverines claws or why a scientific mind like the Beast is calling Reed Richards a “bitch”… they’re welcome to read comics as a supplement. But for now… for a developing mind, I’d prefer they stick to appropriate books.

    I know that there are some good books out there for kids. Anthony’s fav, Tin Tin comes to mind as a possibility but if you don’t have an interest in that genre… the choices are few and far between.

    Reading is more then being able to form words from letters. I wouldn’t feed them to my kids any more then I feed them burgers from McDonalds.

  3. Charlie – “I don’t know how you can make such a statement.”

    It is pretty simple how I can make that statement, there are lots of kids in school who can’t read.

    I know of one case (who is a family member of mine) who couldn’t read when he got to the fifth grade. People may think it’s riduculous that a kid could go that far and not be able to read. But it happens. The amazing part was the kid’s parent didn’t know it either. He did a good job hiding the fact that he couldn’t read.

    He was a big fan of video games, so his Mom started buying him video game magazines and she sat with him and read the magazines with him. He did learn how to read because of the material he is interested in.

    Sure, some comic books aren’t Dr. Suess or Robert Munsch, but it is still reading. I don’t care if the material is educational or classic literature, a kid needs to read. Even if the kid never reads a full novel, you still need to read in every day life. Reading billboards isn’t literature, but it is still reading, and I think any tool (comic books included) are important for reading.

    On my daugther’s latest report card, her teacher said that her reading level is the highest in the class. She reads all the time. Sometimes it’s Dr. Suess and sometimes it’s Batman and Spider-Man, having the variety is good for kids to keep them interested.

  4. And therein lies the problem of the medium. It does not get proper respect from its own fanbase, let alone the world at large and has never managed to move away from being seen as a sub-par genre.

    Children who read comic book read period. It is important to instill a love of reading into children by any means, and if comic books start them on their life long love affair with the written word we should be encouraging it.

    I do agree with you that companies should develop more for children than Scooby Doo or Archie, but I must respectfully disagree that comic books are less than novels in terms of “nutritional value”. Unless you are requiring that children read Jane Austin or William Faulkner instead of comic books.

    You will find that many novels (especially those marketed at children) are filled with trite foolishness, cookie-cutter plotlines, and simple vocabulary. Completely lacking in robust, literary dietary requirements.

    In the way that comic books are often looked down upon, novels have historically gotten a pass and are automatically assumed to be a more legitimate medium than they actually are.

    Novels and comic books are not better than the other, simply different.

  5. I’ve always said that comics are a different experience. But to say that they are “… important to literacy” is a pretty big claim.

    Ed, lets not focus on the “exceptions”. There are exceptions to every rule so lets just accept this as a given. Besides, one case or even a dozen cases doesn’t establish any standard. Kids out there who are having trouble reading have bigger issues outside of comics.

    And Anthony, I agree that there are many books out there disguised as “healthy” stories. Which is why I keep my kids away from highly commercialize products such as Hanna Montana. We are a consumer society so it’s understood that most stuff out there is junk. The point I’m trying to get across is…

    • Consider how much time, money and effort is spent on comics.
    • Consider how and why comics are produced.

    Comics as a medium is mostly junk by it’s nature. Just like Hollywood summer blockbusters are mostly eye candy. Their sole purpose is to entertain and numb us down, not to educate or enlighten. Mindless action is a response to societies desire for “easy” entertainment and the studios cater to this because that’s where the money is. By the same token, comics are not designed to feed growing minds and this is a simple fact that industry people refuses to see.

    We have the whole set of Robert Munsch books at home and where they differ from comics is that:

    Repetition. Like poetry, there is a rhythm to the words and phrases so that it’s reinforced.
    Structure. A good story has an underlying structure with a beginning, middle and an end.
    Perspective. A good story is not just about one point of view.
    Interpretation. A story should allow itself to be understood in different ways.

    It’s these principles that exercises a growing mind. Without the a proper diet, the mind can’t grow. If you can give me a list of kids comics that incorporate some of these principles, I’d be happy to push them on my kids.

    Here is a more specific example:

    1. “Our love is like a red rose.”
    2. “Our love is a red rose.”

    Depending on the context, simple sentences like these can have all sorts of meaning. Similes and metaphors are mostly lost in comics because the pictures take away the interpretive aspect and it’s the interpretation that gets the brain thinking. Tell me, which line would you say is more powerful?

    Watchmen is a great story, not because of the characters everyone is arguing about, but because it depicts the various ways in which we struggle with a problem. It’s a reflection of us and it’s a much more powerful statement when the message reaches us beyond the written word… but rather how the words are arranged and sequenced.

    In advertising “Just Do It” is more than a call to action. Within these three words is an aspirational spirit that carries with it a promise from Nike, the products and the values of the company.

    So yes, comics are still “reading” Ed, just like McDonalds burgers are still considered “food”. But we all know what happens when your diet consists of mostly salt, sugar and fat.

    It’s not enough just to be able to “read”. We read to communicate, to understand and to express. Reading should lead to “why”.

    Ed, it’s great that you daughter reads at a high level and I wouldn’t discourage that. But success in life doesn’t come from reading comics. Comprehension, communication and knowing how to manage issues will serve her better in the long run. All this stuff comes from “understanding”, never reading alone.

    Remember words like “I have a dream”. Any one can read this but only certain people can understand it’s meaning. More powerful then any bullet, this phrase is responsible for social change. How amazing is that!

  6. Hi Ed,
    As a child we lived next door to our local library, now it was only one room, but I was there every Saturday and checked out an armload of books. I loved to read and so do my children. My parents bought us comics regularly and I would devour those as well. I think what you are trying to say is that comics as a supplement to books are a good thing and I agree with you there. Yes they are not “real” books but it is still reading and I have to think that ANY reading is a big PLUS.

  7. Charlie, those are some sweeping statements. Looks like you say comics when you mean mainstream superhero comics; Tiny Titans is the same thing. There is a vast wealth of genres and age appropriate comics out there, but you need to look beyond Marvel and DC.

    Reading is obviously extremely important in a child’s development and all reading is good, but age appropriate material is the key. Comics are just part of what we read and it’s no different for our children.

  8. Sweeping? I thought I was being very specific…

    Scott… I would love to introduce comics to my kids. If you or anybody out there can post a list of kid appropriate comics I’ll run out and pick them up. My oldest is 7… just keep in mind 2 things:

    1. They must go beyond entertainment. The stories must have structure, ie; identifiable characters, a clear setting, a clear problem, how they solve the problem and a moral.

    2. You say there is a vast wealth of genres. Perfect. If my girls are not interested in one kind… they’ll have options.

    Here they are at 5 Min Marvels:

    Thank you in advance ^_^

  9. We’re adding a new columnist very soon who is a teacher and they’ll be addressing specifically this topic. Have a look at Kids Comics and Comics In The Classroom for a brief look at what’s available. First Second and Candlewick Press have wonderful graphic novels for children. If you want to browse a comic shop with a large children’s section then go to The Dragon in Guelph or Little Island Comics in Toronto.
    I’m impressed your children read nothing for pure entertainment.

  10. Charlie- I think it’s great someone wants to help their kids develop mentally in the most enriching way possible and I agree that some comics hold no educational value at all. On the other hand, proclaiming comics are nothing more than a throw away medium shows you didn’t stray from the “BIG 2”. Just think of all the material you were deprived of while you were busy looking down on yourself for liking it!
    Don’t get me wrong, I know there is lot’s of crap out there, but you could use some education your self good sir.

    ANYTHING that gets kid’s reading is a positive thing. Give them the choice to read what they want. Providing books like Teen Titans and Archie shows you didn’t put the effort into making your choices on what comics to make available in the first place. Don’t use your ignorance as a point of fact.

    Saying comics do “not educate or enlighten”, Is like saying music has no value than that of simple background noise. You should really look past the medium and try and find the message.
    Comics helped my brother and I get get through a lot when we were kids, still do. Spider-Man may not have helped with my grammar but it sure as hell kept me reading, not to mention the artistic inspiration it provided….and don’t even think of putting down comic art, cuz the gloves will come off! Did you see that, I wrote “cuz”, must be them damn comic books…I ain’t in to no fancy book learnin….

  11. Ryan, do I really sound “ignorant” to you? Do you really believe that I’m unaware of independent publications? You shouldn’t mistaken “practical choice” with “lack of knowledge”.

    Out of the tons of comics produced each year, it’s only logical to assume that a handful of them would meet my criteria. However, I haven’t come across any in the Toronto comic stores. (Scott, I’ve been wanting to check out Little Island and eventually I will. Prediction: I’m sure I’ll find a few good books there).

    The issue, outside of the big 2, is not whether they exist or not, it’s one of access. Independent books have trouble getting wide distribution. I’m not going to drive across town to Little Island on a regular basis, let alone Guelph to get some comics. It’s not practical and getting my kids to read comics is not a priority. Especially when there are other books around and other parental challenges to deal with.

    The simple truth is, comics in GENERAL, is a form entertainment, not education. Is there anything wrong with that? Maybe to you, but not to me.

    When it come to kids… it’s all about prioritizing. Time, money… opportunity is limited. So if I get a chance to to apply some influence… I’m going to make it count. I have no reason to push comics on my kids other then sharing an interest… and this too will come in time. I don’t owe it to the industry to prop them up.

    Also, “at least they’re reading” is miles apart from “…comics is important for literacy of our youth.”

    If you feed your kids Chicken McNuggets with the same attitude… “hey, at least they’re eating”, might I suggest you put the comic book down and learn about proper dieting.

  12. Well Charlie, where do I start. You do sound ignorant to me, not in general, just when it comes to the value of the comics medium. Yes you made a “practical choice” not to look into what’s available for younger readers, that’s on you man. As for availability, Ebay, Amazon hell maybe even Kijiji, and of course reading comics isn’t a priority…to anyone, unless you work in the biz….but I digress.

    I am taking issue with your unhealthy view on comics in general..yes it is a form of entertainment, but you need to go back and read what you wrote.

    “Comics as a medium is mostly junk by it’s nature.”

    “Their sole purpose is to entertain and numb us down, not to educate or enlighten.”

    Plain and simple ignorance. Read Maus, and tell me those statements ring true. Read Animal Man (Morrison run), Daytripper, Stray Bullets, Habibi, Hark a Vagrant…. I could go on and on, but the point is you made some pretty bold statements you based on YOUR knowledge. What I am trying to say Charlie is comics as a medium will never gain the respect it deserves if it’s own readers continue the Fredric Wertham frame of mind.

  13. Ryan, what percentage of comics does your list of “good” books represent out of the millions produced each year? I’ll bet it’s way less than 50%. Consider the on-going trend toward “dark” stories, the swearing, the gratuitous “adult” situations and the lack of actual words. Consider the same stories retold, the gimmicks, the reboots and the celebrity status of certain creatives.

    Conclusion: Comics are attempting to be Hollywood, therefore, I stand by my comments.

    I don’t know you and you don’t know me so it’s sad that you feel you have to put words into my mouth and resort to insults to get you point across. I’m embarrassed for you but most of all… I find your approach boring.

    I wont engage a philistine… If you can’t demonstrate rationale thinking, this conversation has reached it’s conclusion.

  14. I’m glad it’s over, phew, I was really stressing out about this! lol
    I’m sorry Charlie, I do believe you would be the exact definition of a philistine in this particular instance.
    A Philistine is a person who has an attitude or set of values perceived as despising or undervaluing art, contentedly commonplace in ideas and tastes…..much like your arguments against the medium of comics.
    It isn’t personal Charlie, I simply pointed out your ignorance on the subject.
    I am not sure where I inserted any words into your mouth? Could you please point that out for me? I think the fact of the matter is you don’t like being told your wrong. No one does. I was hoping to sway your opinion a little the other direction, my mistake.
    In my opinion (and I’m not alone) you are wrong about the medium of comics. I hope someday you’ll experience a book that will make you think differently…even just a little.
    No reply needed Charlie, but I do wonder why someone who holds so much contempt for comics feels he needs to make his presence known on a COMIC BOOK site.

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