My four-year-old and I read our first real comic together the other day in celebration of Comics February!. He can’t quite read on his own yet but we have been working hard on sight words and I’ve noticed that every day since our first comic he has been going back to the book, picking it up and looking at the book on his own. I of course was just thrilled.
But wait, you might thought-bubble, aren’t picture books already like comics? Yes a little, but comics for young kids often have several panels on one page that depict the action of the story, whereas most picture books often have just one big picture per page. There are some picture book exceptions, which are styled more like comics. For instance, The Gingerbread Man series by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery.
And Extraordinary Warren by Sarah Dillard
The next step up from picture books are beginning and emerging reader books, which have simple text and pictures but somehow these books aren’t as exciting and innovative as some picture books can be (and picture books these days are so wonderfully imaginative!). We are not venturing into chapter books yet, although I sometimes read aloud from kid classics like Roald Dahl’s works.
My aim in all this is to continue to nurture my two boys’ love for reading. They may only be two and four at the moment but there’s always a nagging feeling at the back of my mind, that one day they may only care for iPad games, sports and TV, and never open a book other than those for school.
All kinds of studies tell us what we already know.
- Boys are slower to learn to read than girls.
- Boys are less likely to read for pleasure than girls.
- Girls do better than boys in reading tests*
So in the hope that they will continue to love reading, whether it’s picture books, chapter books or comic books, I’ve been looking up some comics suitable for younger readers.
The one that we read together was Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. It may be aimed at those aged 7 and up, but my four-year-old (five next month!) enjoyed it. He did say that some parts were a bit scary, but seeing how he looked at the comic several times on his own, he must have liked it. There are two other books in the Zita series so far.
Toon Books has a great-looking collection of easy comics for young readers. The comics are marked from Level 1 (Grades K-1), Level 2 (Grades 1-2), Level 3 (Grades 2-3), then Toon Graphics (Grades 3+). And some big names have written these books, like Jeff Smith (Bone), Art Spiegelman (Maus, also he and his wife are the ones responsible for the existence of Toon Books) and Renee French (Micrographica).
The Owly books by Andy Runton would make my two-year-old’s eyes grow as big as, well, an owl. He LOVES owls, and there are so many owl picture books that he adores. This series is perfect for his age group as well because it’s a largely wordless graphic novel.
The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka looks like a delightful comic book series for elementary kids. I may pick one up to give it a try but I don’t think he’s quite ready for that yet.
I wish I had thought about looking up comics for preschoolers (or kindergarteners) sooner as Finnian and I could do mini reviews of these books together for Comics February! But maybe we will still do that when we get our hands on these books. Now off to the library to put some holds on comics for kids!
Do you know of any great comics for emerging readers and kindergarteners?
Why Women Read More than Men: NPR
Boys’ Reading Commission – National Literacy Trust; UK
Boys and reading – Services to Schools; New Zealand
Some fantastic ideas and more comic books, especially for those seven and up, can be found at The Graphic Classroom