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Comic books come to the rescue for reluctant readers

AVON, Ind. (WISH) — A traditional book is black and white, for many kids that just doesn’t keep the pages turning. But a comic book pairs print with pictures to pull in pupils.

“These are more Japanese-style books that you read backwards. It’s the same thing as a comic book, but it has more of a story to it,” 16-year-old Jared Westcott said.

Westcott enjoys spending time buried in a book.

“All of these books over the years, I’ve read,” Westcott said pointing to stacks of books in his bedroom.

He was even named Reader of the Week at Avon High School during last school year, but Westcott says he wasn’t always a soaring through the stories.

“First, second grade, those were the years I just didn’t like it. That and half the time the stories were not very entertaining,” he said.

But during a trip to a local bookstore, something different peaked Westcott’s interest.

“I found these books in the back aisle and they were so much better. I thought I can read these. I can take these to school and enjoy this,” Westcott said.

It was a breakthrough moment for Westcott and experts say he is far from alone. Many students can connect comic books to some of their favorite movies and CW shows, which is enough to get them to pick up a book, when they wouldn’t before.

“We actually have a large collection in our school library of graphic novels, so that we can meet the need of those students,” Robin Young said.

Young is the president of the Indiana Library Federation and a librarian at Avon High School.

“Reading is reading. Anything that improves our students reading and reading ability, we are all for that,” Young said.

Young recently lead a research project at Avon High School to study the effects of reading comic books, or as she calls them, graphic novels.

“With every student who did participate, we found an increase in standardized test scores with them,” Young said.

Pow! Just like that, kids who otherwise wouldn’t pick up a book, are flying through them one-by-one.

“They will check out stacks of them at a time. Stacks and stacks,” Young said.

Young says comic books shouldn’t be considered a villain to traditional reading, but more of a sidekick. Graphic novels often have high reading levels and will lead children to pick up other genres.

“What you find is it becomes difficult for people who are used to reading standard types of reading, to read the images and words together, so it actually takes a complex reader to read a graphic novel or comic book,” Young said.

Jared agreed saying, “It actually took me a little while to get used to reading them, because they were backwards and sometimes they would have words that I had no idea about.”

In just 20 minutes a day, reading will improve comprehension, vocabulary, and reading speed. All of those skills are also sharpened by a comic book craze.

And for Westcott, who once found himself losing the battle with books, he’s hoping more parents will use heroes to inspire reading.

“Just take your kids and explore with them. Maybe they’ll find something you’ll maybe think is a little kiddish, but overall it could actually be helping them succeed,” Westcott said.