Bringing Comics and Kids together… join in.

Published On September 9, 2012 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Comics For Children

The BBC had an article up on Friday –¬†Children’s reading ‘pushed out’ by other activities.

Basically saying what we all know, that there’s a lot more stuff for kids these days. More TV, more computer games, games consoles, ipads, ipods, social media, websites. And all that extra stuff takes time. Now throw in stuff like school, homework, sports, sleep – and suddenly you begin to get a picture of how busy most children are.

“Children are reading less as their lives become more crowded with other activities, new research suggests.

They are reading fewer novels, comics, magazines and websites, according to a National Literacy Trust study of 21,000 children and teenagers”

“Comic reading has dropped from 64% to 50%”

I know there’s a lovely nostalgic view of childhoods of yesteryear, but in this I reckon it’s true. We genuinely had less stuff to do back then. And less to occupy our time. Which meant that a few pence to buy a comic and a 10p mixup of sweets (or depending on your age a 2p, 5p, 20p, 50p mixup) was a major event.

I remember a wonderful summer of my childhood. For some reason an uncle had found a stack of old Topper comics in his loft. A big pile of them. Huge broadsheet comics. My cousin and I spent all summer reading them, then reading them again, and again, and again. But we had time to do that, because there was sod all else to do. No kids TV during the day, no computer games, no Internet.

(That’s me on the right. Oh, alright, maybe not. Pic borrowed from Terry Hooper)

But just because kids have so much more pulling at their time today, it doesn’t mean they’re any less interested in reading. Not a bit. It’s just not the only thing they have.

So, provided you’re with me on this and believe we should be actively promoting reading as a valuable thing that should get a bigger piece of our children’s valuable time…. how to help?

Well, for a start why not talk to your local primary school? Do you know how many of them have a proper school library? Fewer than you’d think. So why not think about donating some old children’s books to the school rather than taking them to the charity shop. You’d be surprised how grateful the school will be. A good condition book is all it needs, after all, once you stick a book jacket on it and let the kids borrow it a few times you’ll see little difference between new and used. Trust me.

And how many of those have a library that is up to date and relevant? Even fewer. And how many of those have comics? How many have graphic novels?

So, if children aren’t getting comics at a weekend, if they can’t read them in their spare time, lets start getting them into schools. I’m not saying go out and spend a few hundred quid on a comics library………. ¬†Actually, if you want to and have the money, why the hell not.

But then again, it takes a bit more than a few hundred quid…. Complete colour Bone, Complete Tintin, Complete Asterix, DFC Library, Smile, Drama, Owly, Babymouse, Squish, Toon Books, Glister, Gum Girl, Hilda and The Midnight Giant, Dinopopolous, Star Wars Adventures,…. I could keep going, but seriously, you get the idea? Lot of money.

But why not make a start? Buy them some graphic novels. Maybe just pick up the odd ones you see at charity shops. Maybe browse the cheap boxes at your local comic shop. A little goes a long way. Or have a chat with your local comic shop. Tell them about getting comics into schools, maybe ask if they’d help out?

Because the choice seems quite clear to me. You’re one of two types of people in this “why aren’t children reading comics?” debate. You’re talking about it, or you’re doing something about it.

(Pic by Sarah McIntyre, as part of her ongoing “Futures For Comics” series)

I’m lucky, I’ve got my graphic novel library. But it took a lot of work to get it, and a lot of very generous publishers and comic artists, and lots of fundraising in school. But who knows, if I create a few new comic readers, a few kids who might just head to their local comic shop and do their bit to keep comics going.

One thing’s for certain, kids aren’t reading less comics because comics are any less popular with kids. Kids are reading less comics because they don’t have the time, because they just don’t see comics around them like we did. Maybe it’s time we changed that?

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

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