The Awesome Benefits of Comic Books for Children

benefits comic books for kids

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For a long while comic books have gotten a pretty bad rap. They were the sneaky distraction that schoolchildren disguised inside the pages of ‘real books’. People saw them as a more simplified version of reading; something that couldn’t offer the same complexity or developmental benefits that ‘serious books’ could.

But now parents and educators are beginning to see the hidden benefits of the humble comic book (or graphic novel). Professor Carol Tilley from the Department of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois says, “A lot of the criticism of comics and comic books come from people who think that kids are just looking at the pictures and not putting them together with the words.

“Some kids, yes. But you could easily make some of the same criticisms of picture books – that kids are just looking at pictures, and not at the words.”

Here are just some of the awesome benefits of reading comic books:

1. They turn reluctant readers into ravenous readers.

One of the best and most obvious benefits of comic books is that they can be more fun and easier to read than regular books. This can be extremely appealing to young children who would otherwise have little interest in reading traditional forms of books. Many children who think they hate reading respond particularly well to comic books that are based on movies or television shows they enjoy, such as Scooby-Doo and Astro Boy.

2. They give struggling readers confidence.

Comic books don’t intimidate struggling readers with an overwhelming page of text. They usually offer short and easy-to-read sentences, alongside other visual and text cues (e.g. character sighs, door slams etc.) for context. They’re also helpful for children with learning difficulties; children with autism can learn a lot about identifying emotions through the images in a comic book. Children with dyslexia, who may find it frustrating to finish a page in a traditional book, often feel a sense of accomplishment when they complete a page in a comic book. And as many of us know, accomplishment plays a key role in building confident and fluent readers.

3. They increase your child’s inference.

Observation refers to seeing something happening. Inference refers to figuring out something based on evidence and reasoning. It’s an important component of successful comprehension and a valuable life skill for all young children to develop. Comic books can increase inference in young children by encouraging them to “read between the lines” and infer meaning from the images. Children who read comics often need to infer what is not written by the narrator, which is a complex reading strategy. Comic books also help children become familiar with sequencing and understanding succinct language.

4. They expand your child’s bank of words.

When many people think of comic books, they probably don’t take into account the repository of words used on every page, or the opportunity they offer to strengthen vocabulary skills. Comic books give children a unique opportunity to acquire new vocabulary in combination with context cues, that is, information from pictures or from other text cues to help children decipher the meaning of unfamiliar words.

5. They can be a valuable accompaniment for other learning disciplines.

Comic books that explore or touch on historical events, classic tales, wildlife, nature, positive relationships and more can provide a valuable supplement to other areas of learning. For example, if your child is learning about the ancient Egyptians, a comic book story set in ancient Egypt may use pictures to explain important period details, such as clothing, food, rituals, farming, construction, trade, commerce, and cultural and social traits. By taking in a combination of words and illustrations, many children obtain the big picture more easily and with more enthusiasm than they would from using textbooks alone.

6. There are many different comic book genres to suit all tastes.

Comic books aren’t just about superheros and villains. And they’re certainly not just for boys. Comic books and graphic novels are spread across many different genres, including comedy, drama, sci-fi and fantasy, and there is bound to be something to suit all tastes, ages and reading levels. There may even be something that you might like to get into yourself, or enjoy together with your child, snuggled up before bedtime!

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Teaching Children with Autism to Read

reading autism

Parents know their own child’s strengths and weaknesses very well. Teaching a child with autism to read involves observing how these strengths and weaknesses affect their ability to learn.

While every child has their own unique learning style, there are three main components that have been found to be highly beneficial in teaching children with autism to read.

1. Most children with autism are visual learners and prefer to have their learning material presented to them visually.

2. Children with autism tend to respond well to simple, concise and minimal instructions for completing a task or applying a skill.

3. Many children with autism perform well with phonics-based instruction presented in a visual and simple manner.

With these three components in mind, parents can try the following ideas to teach their child to read.

Use picture books and flash cards to teach words. Many children are visual learners, and benefit when whole words are associated with pictures. It is important to have the picture and the printed word on the same side of the card.

Show nouns and act out words. When teaching nouns, let your child hear you speak the word while you display the picture and printed word simultaneously. When teaching verbs, hold a card with the action (e.g. “blink”) and act out the verb by showing that action (e.g. blinking while saying “blink”).

Work with their interests. Children can often become fixated on a certain topic, such as trains or motorbikes. These interests can be a great source of joy for your child, and can motivate them to learn. If your child is fascinated by the ocean, choose books about ocean ecosystems and animals.

Label objects and toys. For each object or toy that your child uses, write the first letter of its name on a card and tape it to the object. Each time your child asks to use it, ask them what letter it starts with. Over time, move on to labelling each object with the entire word.

Choose a distraction-free zone. Work on reading in a quiet and sensory-neutral space. Choose a dimly lit room with minimal posters or artworks on the wall. Sit on the floor and speak in a quiet voice. Avoid fidgeting or multi-tasking while reading with your child, and don’t forget to take frequent breaks to provide regular sensory stimulation. See some ideas for reading spaces.

Use clear short phrases. Avoid varying your language or using different words when giving directions or instructions. Ensure phrases are clear and concise, for example, “James, read your book with Mummy/Daddy” or “Read the first page of this book”.

Read the same story again and again. Many children with autism enjoy repetition and by reading the same story again, you can help them pick up important language skills. Choose books that have a lot of repetition of phrases, such as nursery rhymes. Softly clap along to the rhythm together.

Use technology. A study in the Journal of Autism and Development Disorders reported that children with autism gain greater enjoyment out of computer-based instruction in reading. Choose phonics-based programs that include rich visuals and a self-paced learning structure. Read how parents of children with special needs benefited from using the online reading program, Reading Eggs.

Reading Eggs is the multi-award winning online reading program for ages 3-13. New customers can sign up for a free 2 week trial here.