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Susan

Comic Strips for Kids

Posted by Susan on July 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM in Comics and Graphic Novels
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There's a magical series in the world of children's books. I've seen kids who hate to read devour these books. The copies at my library keep falling apart and we can never keep the books on the shelf. When I worked in a bookstore, I was always tripping over kids in the aisles who had sat down to read right in front of where these books were displayed. I've watched everyone from 6 to 60 become mesmerized by them. What's the name of this incredible series that casts such a spell?

Calvin and Hobbes.

You thought I was going to say Harry Potter, didn't you? I'll save that series for another post.

Bill Watterson's comic strip about a hyper kid and his stuffed tiger ran in the newspapers for only ten years, from 1985 to 1995. It's been fourteen years since the last strip appeared and Calvin's popularity doesn't seem to have waned for a minute. It's a timeless creation that can be enjoyed by nearly every age.

What does this have to do with children's books? Reading is reading, no matter what form it takes. Popular comic strip such as Calvin and Hobbes frequently sell out in bookstores and have incredibly high circulation rates in public and school libraries. Children and teenagers ask all the time for Calvin, Zits, Foxtrot, Garfield and Peanuts. Unfortunately, at least half of the time I get a request for a comic strip book, I hear a parent tell their child that they shouldn't be wasting their time with comics, and urging the kid to pick out better books.

This pains me every time I hear it. Calvin is somebody kids can relate to. He has temper tantrums, he gets in trouble, he has a huge imagination and he doesn't always pay attention. In short, he's a typical kid. And the books are full of are full of complex words and ideas that challenge readers.

Think about a child who is struggling with reading. A chapter book full of words can be completely overwhelming but a comic strip is far less threatening and full of visual cues. Comic strips can help kids learn to read and develop a sense of humor. Reading a small number of panels to get to the punch line can give kids a sense of accomplishment. A collection can be put down and picked up at any time without interrupting the continuity. And most important, comic strips can show kids how fun reading can be.

Look at the picture below. Doesn't it make you want to read the book?

Essential Calvin.jpg

Comic strips are universal and appeal to a wide variety of people of all ages. A while back, I commuted into D.C. via the subway. Practically everybody on the train bought a copy of the Washington Post before they got onboard. And, every single day, 90% of the papers were open to the comics section.

My husband and I have completely different literary tastes. When we got married and merged our book collections, there was only one series that we both owned. Garfield.

The next time you see your child gaze longingly at Calvin and his stuffed tiger, let them give it a try, even if you think they're too young to get the jokes. Or hand a collection to a kid who's struggling and feeling unsuccessful at school. It might make a bigger difference than you think.

10 Comments

Laura writes...

Preach it, sister!

Jean writes...

Susan,
My boys grew up on Calvin and Hobbes and, frankly, I adored the humor. They can still quote favorite frames and have even used themes (like the game of Calvinball) in college papers. They always had those favorite reads stacked safely next to their beds. Hurray for Bill Watterson.

Kristen M. writes...

Great piece! At the elementary school library I volunteered at this past year, the books most in demand through all ages were Garfield collections. To me, those kids seemed like they were making better choices than the ones who picked books about dog breeds every week.

Dreadful Penny writes...

The arrival of Calvin & Hobbes and Far Side collections into my middle school library was a great event for students and teachers. Suddenly a ton of (mostly male) teachers were pulling these books off the shelves and pushing them on their students in one of the most genuine displays of reader-ly enthusiasm I've ever seen. As a lifelong Calvinball player, it made me smile every time.

Janet writes...

Great choice! My reader was already a HP fan and bookworm when he discovered his (now) step-dad's collection of C&H books. He took over the books and then started buying his own any time he could. That was age 6, now he is 13 and still reads them, plus he also went through a phase where he was going to be a comic artist (or a scientist lol)...I have found that these simple comics bring imagination, creativity and even spirituality into an easy to understand format, without dumbing it down. Plus, they are so darn funny! :)

Rasco from RIF writes...

Bravo!

Jacqueline Jules writes...

My son's favorite books as an adolescent were Calvin and Hobbs. At 25, he still reads for pleasure. Now he reads thrillers and mysteries, but his enjoyment as a reader began with Calvin and Hobbs.

We all love and re-read Calvin and Hobbes in our family. My son adored Asterix, too, and went on to manga. Some books I bought him in the US were several volumes of Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe. Do you know them? That started my boy on a love for Ancient History. Comics rock!

Bud writes...

I was with you until the part about Garfield.

Sean writes...

Don't you just love comics? What's today's comic? Roger suggests that Hurbi stick his foot down the chimney. Hurbi has his own ideas! Check out "Foot" http://www.gohurbi.com/

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