Why comic books are great for your child’s literacy development

Today is Star Wars Day (because May the Fourth – geddit?)

However, did you know that today is also Free Comic Book Day? As the name suggests, this is a day where participating comic book stores give a free comic book to anyone visiting their shop.

It’s also an excellent opportunity to get your child into comic books. Contrary to popular belief, comic books should not be seen as the poor literary cousin of ‘proper’ novels. In fact, they can be terrific for your child’s reading skills.

They are excellent gateways for reluctant readers.

Comic books and graphic novels provide an excellent bridge between picture books and full-text novels, and are an especially effective medium by which to engage a reluctant reader. Sure, they may initially be hooked in by the graphics only, but eventually they’ll be forced to read the text to work out exactly what’s happening in that rather intriguing-looking vignette.

They are great for learning complex words and language structure.

While I’ve just extolled the virtues of comic books as a developmental gateway to ‘serious’ novels, you might be surprised to learn that comic books encourage sophisticated literacy skills in their own right. So if you have a child who prefers to read comic books exclusively, rest assured that they’re not necessarily missing out. In fact, they might be acquiring skills that surpass those of their novel-reading peers.

A study showed that comic books and graphic novels contain a greater proportion of higher-order words (language found in senior high school and university placement tests) compared to most other newspapers and periodicals.

They boost inference skills.

The ability to read between the lines is an important life skill, and comic books encourage this skill better than the average literary medium. This is because comic books don’t have the luxury of using extended prose to spell out complex concepts to the reader, so the reader has little choice but to seek pictorial and other contextual cues to piece together the story.

They increase visual literacy.

In today’s world, visual literacy (the ability to process text and images simultaneously) is becoming more and more important. Think Instagram, Pinterest and the running text at the bottom of TV news reports (aka “news tickers”). Applied comics are now being used for adults in business settings to encourage visual literacy, and in medicine to improve doctor and patient communication.

They are a fun way to learn a new language.

Whether it’s a child from a non-English speaking background, or a child who wants to develop a language other than English, comic books and graphic novels are a great and fun way to polish a child’s language proficiency. The visual clues help promote your understanding of the text – and it might also be entertaining to learn how onomatopoeia translates in other languages. For example, an English train goes CHOO CHOO, but a Korean one goes CHIK CHIK POK POK, and a Dutch dog goes BLAF BLAF.


Scooby Doo Team-Up – Sholly Fisch

Image: amazon.com 

Ages 6+

The gang team up with various DC heroes and other Hanna-Barbera characters to solve mysteries. Scooby Doo Team-Up provides a gentler, all-ages-friendly introduction to Batman, Wonder Woman and co. than you’d find in a typical superhero comic.

Tiny Titans  Franco Aureliani and Art Baltazar

Image: amazon.com

Ages 5+

This award-winning series stars the child versions of various DC superheroes and their adventures. The books are split into 2-4 page short stories, which is ideal for early readers.

Smile – Raina Telgemeier

Image: amazon.com

Ages 8+

Tweens and young teens will be able to relate to Raina, a sixth-grade girl who has to contend with crushes, frenemies and an earthquake. Not to mention the orthodontic woes associated with having lost her two front teeth from a Girls Scouts trip.

Tintin comics – Georges Remi

Image: amazon

Ages 8+

You can’t beat a classic. For aspiring French speakers, look no further than the adventures of young Belgian reporter and adventurer, Tintin and his faithful sidekick Snowy the dog.