The first Thursday of March is World Book Day in the UK. The whole idea is to promote reading for pleasure for kids. Schools are pretty active with it many doing events and encouraging dressing up as book characters. Of course many of these characters turn out to be those from comic books but how do you encourage kids to read comics? Or why should you?

Let’s tackle the why first. All reading is good. I know that comic books aren’t full of words but it’s still reading. Reading art, reading pictorial representation and words. Allowing visual storytelling to work. Pictorial depictions of storytelling go way back to prehistory.

Plus it’s good for more reluctant readers. Less words, less intimidation of text. Pictures as well as words can really help those that struggle with the latter. Less pressure to stumble over words. The words and dialogue are useful and important but they aren’t as scary when broken up with art. When I was young I was very into Rupert Bear annuals which combined pictures and a few words with a long story. The same story could be read just with the pictures and short words as opposed to the long text. It encouraged me to read.

Behold the choice of how to read via rhyming and pictures versus long text

So where do you start getting kids into comic books?

When I was a kid The Beano and The Dandy were my way into comics. I was very much a Beano reading kid. You can still find The Beano online with a website full of all sorts of things. The Dandy appears in annual form. The Phoenix is the other UK kids comic. The Phoenix also puts out trades of the stories told within its pages which are very friendly for all ages.

I’d probably recommend just trying an issue to see if anything clicks. In the case of The Beano you could try an annual. If a kid enjoys the annual odds are they will enjoy the issues themselves. I’m the case of The Phoenix if there’s a particular story or characters a child responds to then you can see if a trade has been produced.

These are the traditional British ways of getting into comics and I feel they still merit a look. A comic strip or a serialised comic doesn’t need to take up too much time and attention. It’s a sneaky way of getting kids to read something.

Of course another route would be licensed comics. Of all the publishers IDW has the most output with this. There’s My Little Pony, Transformers, TMNT, Sonic, crossovers involving several of these and more. If there’s a particular media franchise a kid you know is a fan of then comics are a fun way to expand that universe.

There’s recognisable characters and places. Generally licensed comics do pretty well with recreating the general feel of whatever licensed property it’s portraying. So if it’s based on a cartoon then the art looks like that cartoon. That draws a really neat parallel between watching and reading which may work for a lot of kids who might otherwise miss the connection.

Of course for some kids there’s superheroes which do this and both Marvel and DC do books aimed at younger readers. At Bigger Than Capes though we’re all about the indie and I’d encourage more people to check those out with kids too. There’s just such a huge range out there suitable for all levels and ages. You don’t have to stick to superheroes, you can explore a huge range of stories. Not all kids are into superheroes and they may well find different comic book heroes who don’t wear capes.

If you want some story recommendations we did an all all ages recommendations podcast on this very thing.

There’s also a lot of actual books these days that draw on comic art. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is probably the most famous example which has spawned a lot of imitators all of which combine drawings you might expect to see in a comic strip with diary style prose. The drawings are key to the tone and compliment the text. It’s also encouraged trade style books such as the Dogman series. The latter is worth checking out.

In conclusion all reading is good and comic books are just one facet, one tool to encourage kids to do this. Gifts child a trade, or an issue and start that life long passion for reading.

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