The relationship between reading and literacy development is widely understood. Children who read frequently develop a strong foundation of literacy skills, enabling them flourish throughout their education. Research has shown that children who enjoy reading as they grow up can benefit from higher levels of concentration, increased vocabulary and even greater levels of empathy.
While the benefits of developing children’s literacy skills are undisputed, the methods by which parents and teachers can encourage children to read have received far less attention. This is surprising as teaching literacy must be about much more than learning to read and write. Developing a love of reading that will last a lifetime is equally important, as it encourages children to become self-motivated learners.
But with technology offering easy entertainment with one click, the challenge of getting children interested in reading is becoming increasingly difficult. A recent survey found the number of children who say they love reading books for fun has dropped almost 10% in the last four years, with children citing the pressure of schoolwork and other distractions.Given this worrying decline in children’s interest in reading, efforts need to be focused on helping children read for pleasure.
Interestingly, recent research has shown comics books are a very useful tool in helping to capture the interest of young readers, and hold the key to boosting children’s literacy skills at the same time. And, with comic books and graphic novels being one of the highest growing categories of books across international markets, understanding the effects of this genre of literacy development is more important than ever.
Why comic books capture children’s imagination
Open any page, and it’s clear to see why comic books capture the interest of young readers. Rather than being overwhelmed with full pages of dense text, comic books burst with colour and vibrancy that immediately grab children’s interest. The visual nature of comic books particularly appeals to children more familiar with TV cartoons, and can provide a useful transition between picture books and full-length novels.
Comic books also draw children in with their dynamic and action-packed plots, with aspirational characters driving storylines that enable children’s imagination to run wild. This is not only important to fostering a love of literature, but can help develop vital creative skills, as comic books take snapshots of specific moments and challenge children to fill in the gaps.
Unsurprisingly, then, a recent survey conducted by Scholastic, the well-known publisher of educational materials, found “school librarians and educators have reported outstanding success getting kids to read with graphic novels, citing particularly their popularity with reluctant readers.”
How comic books develop literacy skills
The structure of comics can help develop a number of important reading skills. For example, comics introduce children to typical plot structures, with rising action, a climax and an inevitable resolution. These same plot constructions can be seen across a range of novels, from Dickens to Shakespeare, and exposing children to these familiar structures will help them take on more traditional novels when the time comes.
Further, comic books can also greatly aide children’s vocabulary development as the bite-size text and visual clues allow children to decipher words they would not immediately recognize if hidden within a page of text. Developing this familiarity will then give them the confidence to recognize these words in other settings.
Ask children to write a short story, and the page is often left blank. Ask them to write a comic, and their creativity will flow. This in turn will develop their confidence in creative writing, enabling children to practice and improve their spelling in the process.
Publishers are stepping up to meet demand
While comic books where once shunned in favour of “real” books”, there has been a growing appreciation among parents and educators alike of the role that comics can play in literacy development. In turn, industry specialists are stepping up to provide engaging comic books for kids, that satisfy parents’ desire for educational content at the same time.
Fabelizer is one such publisher, and has launched a range of superhero comic books to help educate, as well as entertain children aged 3 to 10. The first superhero introduced is Aychu, “Guardian of the Green”.
This young, invisible green warrior knows what must be done to save the future of our planet, and is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. Values such as friendship and courage are crucial to the superhero’s success, teaching kids important life lessons as well as literacy skills.
Aychu’s E-comics can be purchased here. Parents and educators can also stay up to date with the latest news about the green superhero by subscribing to Aychu’s regular blogs, and following heron Facebook and Instagram.
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