How to Read Comics with Kids

“Comics are a gateway drug to literacy.”
–Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus and TOON Books Series Advisor

Kids LOVE comics. The details in the pictures make them want to read the words. Comics beg for repeated readings and let both emerging and reluctant readers enjoy stories with a rich vocabulary. TOON Books, the first high-quality comics designed for children ages four and up, are vetted by educators and leveled to be just right for beginning readers. Pick up a Level OneLevel Two, or Level Three book today. Here are the top ten tips for reading comics with kids…

1. Find the right book

There are many comics and graphic novels out there, but not all are appropriate for every age. Look for titles made especially for children. It’s best to choose a story that fits the child’s age and interests.

TIP: The TOON Books collection is designed for the beginning or early reader.

2. Guide young readers

Keep your fingertip below the character that is speaking, so kids can follow along with the story even if they can’t yet read the words.

3. Ham it up!

Think of the comic book story as a play. Don’t hesitate to be a ham! Read with expression and intonation. Assign parts or get kids to supply the sound effects–it’s a great way to reinforce phonics skills.

TIP: Even very young readers will enjoy making the easy-to-read sound effects.

4. Let them guess

Comics provide lots of context for the words, so beginning readers can make informed guesses. In Benny and Penny in Just Pretend, for example, Geoffrey Hayes introduces the word “PIRATE” along with a pirate ship, two pirate hats, and two pirate flags.

TIP: The child who makes informed guesses is reading. Enjoy and hold back from correcting.

5. Talk about the pictures

A comics artist communicates information through the shape of the panels (and can make you laugh by putting panels upside-down.) Point out how the artist directs the reader’s eye, because readers look at what the characters look at. The composition of the right-hand page below points to the bird flying away, breaking out of the panel.

Get kids talking, and you’ll be surprised at how perceptive they are about the pictures.

6. Take time with silent panels

Comics use panels to mark time, and silent panels count. Look and “read” even when there are no words. Often, humor is all in the timing!

7. See how pictures tell the story

In a comic, you can read the story even if you don’t know all the world. Jeff Smith, the master cartoonist behind the BONE series and the Little Mouse Gets Ready TOON Book, is a skilled visual storyteller. Get young readers to tell you what’s happening in the sequence below based on Little Mouse’s facial expressions and body language.

TIP: Seeing the hand of the artist at work in comics makes kids want to tell their own stories. Encourage them to talk, write, and draw!

8. Get out the crayons!

Young readers are young writers! Activities like coloring pages and scramble comics jump-start kids’ enthusiasm for storytelling. Encourage children to create their very own stories using the Comic Makers.

TIP: When drawing your own comic, write the words first, then draw balloons around them!

9. Let them re-read

Not only do children love to read comics, they also love to RE-read them. When re-reading a comic, kids find all the details that make comics so pleasurable. Beginning readers then become fluent readers.

10. Above all, ENJOY!

There is never one right way to read, so focus on sharing your fun. Once children engage with the story in their imagination, they discover the thrill of reading. At that point, just go get them more books–and more comics!

Find these tips and more in the TOON into Reading Pamphlet!
























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