While conversations about literacy typically begin when children start school, the roots of reading skills begin at birth. The first few years of life are vital for the development of literacy skills, as children absorb the building blocks of language.
Although we know that children acquire literacy skills long before they enter a classroom, specialists are not calling for formal instruction to begin at an earlier age. Instead, experts advocate for a more natural unfolding of literacy skills during these developmental years, as our earliest experiences with books and stories should be about enjoyment.
Children as “lookers”
Comic books, as a genre which combines colourful images with small snippets of text, can be the ideal way to introduce children to reading. Comics can familiarise children with the concept of reading, long before they can read for themselves.
One way they can do this is by introducing children to book handling behaviours like page turning as they are stimulated by bright colours and pictures. By running a finger along the images as they are reading, parents can also familiarise children with navigating across the page.
At an early age, children can also interact with the pictures in books, such as by gazing at pictures, laughing and even pointing at familiar characters and objects. According to Zero to Three, a research organisation that focuses on early-stage development, these recognition behaviours demonstrate the earliest stages of picture and story understanding.
Children as “listeners”
As children progress from lookers to listeners, comic books play a very crucial role in developing plot comprehension. This is because comics stimulate a state of mind in children that words alone can’t achieve, as they present children with moments of action and challenge them to fill in the gaps.
Karen Lotz of Candlewick Press points out in a New York Times piece, “As the reader interacts with the book picture by picture, their imagination fills up the missing themes.” This encourages a form of active engagement from children that can contribute to the development of critical thinking skills.
Parents can further encourage their children to be actively engaged in story time by spending time discussing the story, pictures, and words. What has happened in the story? What are the characters doing? What could happen next? These questions can encourage children to develop their verbal interactions and vocabulary. Vocabulary can also be developed by encouraging children to sound out new and interesting words that have been read aloud to them.
Comic books also have the same elements of plot development seen across a range of genres, with rising action and an exciting climax. Familiarising children with these constructions in stories will help aid their comprehension of storylines across genres, and ultimately help in making their transition to more text-based formats, smoother.
Children can also begin to empathise with their favourite characters, understanding and predicting the choices the characters make. This can help children not only develop their literacy skills but also their understanding of social norms, values, and complex human emotions.
Children as “readers”
When children are ready to make the transition from listening to reading for themselves, comic books are the perfect genre to attempt this with. Pictures in comics provide powerful visual clues that help children understand what they are reading and the context of the words.
If children are having difficulty with words, the illustrations can help them figure out the narrative, which can, in turn, increase their comprehension.
Because children get bored easily, few parents will have difficulty encouraging their children to read the same story again and again. This is not a futile task, as research shows reading the same story repeatedly increases vocabulary by 12%.
Aychu: Guardian of the green, created by a children’s content creator Fabelizer, recognises the potential for comic books to teach moral lessons, as well as literacy skills, and is a recommended brand for parents that want their children’s superheroes to be strong role models.
Aychu is an unassuming superhero: shy, quiet and a little awkward. But when it comes to saving the planet, she makes her voice heard loud and clear. Passionate about saving the environment, her adventures can teach children moral values and educate them about pressing issues at a very young age.
If reading is seen as fun rather than a chore from the beginning, it can create a love for books that can last a lifetime.
Aychu’s E-comics can be purchased on the following platforms – Google Play, Amazon, iBooks Store, and Kobo. 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 her on Facebook and Instagram.
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