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Why You Should Read Comic Books to Your Children
Comic books for kids are often overlooked when it comes to bedtime stories--or stories you might want to read to your kids at all. Since DC just punched the reset button on their universe in September of 2011, now is the perfect time to enter the story lines you've been curious (or nostalgic) about--and share them with your kids.
What Comic Books for Kids Provide
There are a few things comics can provide that you may not find in your average children's book:
- Challenging vocabulary words--and lots of words in general. Between the densely packed vocabulary and more intricate story lines than some children's books have, kids will become better thinkers as they try to decipher meanings and follow the plot. You may be asked what some of the words mean, so set aside enough time not only to read the comic, but to answer questions as you go.
- Strong moral character, juxtaposed against evil, with a lesson in hope. Bad things may happen, but the good guy usually comes out ahead in the end. Kids learn to persevere through negative experiences without giving in to the pressure to selfishly do the wrong thing. Some parents may cringe at the thought of violence in certain good vs. evil stories, but search the $1.00 bins at your local comic book stores for 1970s comics (or older) and you may find them tame enough. Don't be afraid to engage the comic shop staff in conversation; not all new comics contain violence and they'll be able to point you in the right direction as well. Of course, you'll always want to flip through the comic before you settle into the rocking chair by the bed and start to read out loud. There is a rating system for newer comics that you can take into account when making your selections, including T for teen, T+ for edgier titles, A for all ages, M for mature, ect.
- Inspiration to collect books that could rise in value over time (but you may never want to sell!), and a collection brimming with sentimental value that you can pass down from generation to generation. "I remember when I was seven, my dad gave me a long box full of reprints of old Avengers comics. It was an awesome summer. When I got too tired of riding my bike and tromping through the woods I would read thousands of words a day of the adventures of Thor, the Vision and Antman," says William, the father of a four-year-old girl who's obsessed with Wonder Girl and Wonder Woman comics.
- Pride in being "tough" like their favorite superheroes, but not an instigator. Sure, taekwondo lessons could work, but kids can handle both! "What parent can't love reading about Superman or Wonder Woman to their kids?" says William. "I mean, Superman is the ultimate do-the-right-thing-no-matter-what example. Granted, most of the time he can afford that luxury because he can't be hurt, but it's when he walks into the kryptonite-laden room to save others that he really teaches the lesson. And Wonder Woman was founded on truth, female empowerment, love over conflict, and dialogue over fighting, but when she needs the strength and moral aptitude to stomp a mudhole in those who won't listen, it's there. But then she wipes off her red boots, forgives them and gives them a chance to be better."
- A tradition. A trip to the comic book store when the new titles come out every week can turn into a "date" for the child and one or both parents. It's a laidback time to look forward to all week and an opportunity to get to know your child better even up into young adulthood. When you enter those potentially rough teenage years, you'll have that rapport to fall back on. Even though you won't be reading the comics to your child forever, you'll still get the chats in the car on the way to and from the store, plus plot and character discussions.
- Comic books can introduce kids to the classics. If you aren't keen on the language or stories in children's books and you'd much rather be reading them something more profound, pique their interest in Pride & Prejudice, Great Expectations, Ivanhoe, and more by choosing titles from Classics Illustrated (not to be confused with the collection of books called Great Illustrated Classics). The pictures will hold their attention while the stories will expand their minds.
To test the waters for free, contact your favorite comic shop to inquire about their Free Comic Book Day events, or visit FreeComicBookDay.com for a list of participating retailers in your area. Free Comic Book Day is held on the first Saturday of May every year. There's something for all ages and tastes, from Mickey Mouse to Batman, but you won't be able to stroll into the comic shop and choose just any book off the rack. Some stores even invite artists, people in costumes, and writers to interact with the crowds. Kids and adults will enjoy the atmosphere.
As long as you choose your titles diligently and chat with the comic book store employees to determine the best ones for your family and locate the comic books for kids, you'll introduce your children to a wholesome, enriching reading experience. You may even rekindle the love for superheroes you left behind in your own childhood. Comic books are for all ages, so don't feel ashamed if you find yourself eagerly anticipating the release date of the next issue.