It is said that the person who reads for pleasure lives many lifetimes; the person who doesn’t only lives only one.
As a Learning Specialist, I regularly meet children who never read for pleasure. Never Ever. I love reading and it breaks my heart that so many children hate it or only associate it with school. When I was a teenager I used to be up all night reading. I’d be lying if I said I was reading Tolstoy or Joyce – it was more likely my mother’s Catherine Cookson or Mills and Boon. It really didn’t matter what I was reading though, what mattered was that I was reading. In time I progressed to other writers, devouring everything from crime to science fiction to biographies to Marian Keyes.
When I was younger, I loved comics like Twinkle (remember the little doll’s hospital?). Could I read every word? No, but that was okay, the pictures helped me to understand. As I got older I moved on to Judy -I had it on order in case I’d miss an issue, then Jackie, then Smash Hits! and from there I graduated to the Granddaddy of them all – Hot Press.
Sadly, all but Hot Press are no more. Having the weekly comic on order in the local newsagents is now a thing of the past and with it goes a wonderful resource to encourage children to read for pleasure and to develop their imaginations.
Comics used age appropriate words and allowed children to recognise and understand the context of the most commonly used sight words, most of which are abstract words. There were pictures to reinforce that understanding. Many stories helped to teach writing structure because the short story had a beginning, middle and end. Others taught the concept of creating suspense because you had to wait until next week to find out what was going to happen next, the cliff-hanger fuelling our imaginations.
But most of all they were FUN like the Beano and the Dandy – just crazy, silly fun and that is why read and re-read the weekly comics – because they were fun. We read them with others and our parents read them to us. It was the original shared reading. On wet, rainy Saturdays when we couldn’t play outside we could escape into many other worlds through our comics. Eventually the comics helped to lead us on to books – enabling us to live many lifetimes.
Perhaps it is time to bring back the comics.