07 July 2009

Spiderman, Wolverine and Mr. Darcy?

Isaac loves comic books. He gets this from his dad. I never read comic books growing up, so I am playing catch-up in order to understand my son's fascination with Spiderman, Bat Man and Wolverine.

Matt has been buying Isaac comics aimed at younger kids, though they are still supposedly meant for children older than 3-soon-to-be-4. But Isaac loves them. There are some nights that the bedtime stories are comic books and nothing else. Do you realize how long a comic book takes to read out loud, even one geared toward younger children? Now multiply that by 5. Those are the nights that the bedtime routine needs to start at 6:00 in order to be done by 8:30.

There have been a lot of polls published about the reading habits of Americans recently. Many of them report that Americans are reading less. But what they really mean is that Americans are reading less fiction. Americans are reading newspapers, magazines, graphic novels, online articles and a host of other forms of writing. Maybe not as much as we should be, and maybe what we are reading is not the most thought provoking fare out there, but at least we are reading.

Boys read comic books. They are fascinated by the superheroes and the fantasy worlds in which they live. As boys get older they typically read less traditional fiction and more comic books and graphic novels. Some educators do not consider this legitimate "reading" and try to push boys back to "books." My approach, with my students and with my son, is to let boys read what they want to read. Reading comic books is not going to deter them from reading when they are older. Pushing them to read something they are not interested in will. Comics might actually encourage boys to find stories in other formats that interest them as adults.

When I titled my blog "Book for My Boy and Yours, " I knew that I would be writing about what we read to Isaac, but I had not thought further than that. When I began thinking more about what he enjoys reading, I realized he reads a lot of non-traditional formats. There are comic books on his shelves, as well as Star Wars picture encyclopedias. He also enjoys looking at nature and car magazines. So, in this blog I will occasionally write about things other than "books." The point isn't to find books that boys will read, it is to find anything that they will read and to keep them reading.

I now wish I had read comics as a child, not only to be able to relate to Isaac's interests. The worlds that the writers and artists create are complex and connect multiple generations. I am enjoying discovering them with Isaac.

When we were told we were having a boy, I was thrilled. But I immediately thought of things that I wouldn't experience with him and was almost nostalgic for the little girl I wouldn't have. One of the experiences that I won't be able to share, at least not in the same way, is my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice. However, this summer my favorite novel of all time is being adapted into a 5 part graphic format. Of course, I am buying them as they come out and I am looking forward to the day when I can introduce Isaac to Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in a format that will appeal to him. And who knows, maybe he will be inspired to read the book. I can dream.


  1. Plus, there's also Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which my wife just finished reading last night.

    (By the way, hi Nancy, I'm Matt's friend Ben!)

    Not to mention: We have some friends with three boys in or past college and they're all huge Jane Austen fans. Once they get in college it's a great way to talk to women, at least. Personally, I just watch the movies.

    Anyone who thinks graphic novels aren't literature should read The Arrival (forget the author, recently published). Amazing, and without any significant dialogue either. Bone by Jeff Smith is very good too and would be OK for elementary kids. Once they're older Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore are as good as anything written.

  2. I have the Bone series at school for the kids, as well as the Babymouse series, and none of them stay on the shelves. And some publiishers are starting non-fiction graphic series for kids, which are very popular. If that's what it takes to get kids to read history, I'm okay with that.

    I am hoping the P&P comics or Zombies will interest Matt enough to get him to read them. He won't even watch the movies. Isaac will be much more broadminded, if I have anything to say about it.