Monday, January 24, 2011

All The Best Comics Have Daddy Issues #14

 
I’m a firm believer in teaching your children about literacy, I feel every child should grow up in a house full of books where they have these books read to them, and see adults read, and get the chance to read their own books. But when your kid is only a few months old the interaction with literacy is limited, and completely controlled by you. I wonder what my very young son makes of the comics I read to him, and how are these comics different by being read aloud?

Won’t You Read To Me, Daddy?

I read to my son a fair bit. I’m pretty keen on him learning what a book is, and why they’re awesome. It also helps that whenever I read to him, anything, he just stops and enjoys it. I’d go so far as to say he likes being read to but he’s only 4 months old, does he really like anything?

I was reading a book about reading to your children (no, I didn’t read this book to him) and it says that while kids might not understand what you are reading to them you are still imparting plenty of wisdom. The child understands that a book is an object, something that can be picked up, handled, played with. They learn that a book goes right to left, that’s why every kid you know can pick up a book and flip through it properly, it’s modelled for them. And, almost most importantly, they understand a book is something to be enjoyed.

I have a little library of children’s books to read to my son. I go through them often, as does my wife. But, I’m a busy man with short time so sometimes I kill two birds with one stone, I read my comics to my son. It’s an interesting experience, for many reasons.

If my son is in my lap, he loves looking at the pictures. He scans from left to right, top to bottom, and soaks it all in. I just have to make sure I hold it out far enough so he can’t snatch out and tear a page. I like that reading him my comic is giving him some art appreciation as well, that certainly can’t hurt.

When I read the comic aloud, I really read every part. I try to use character voices, and describe the action. It makes for a much different reading experience because instead of letting the art tell the story a little quicker I have to slow that down and translate into words. I am finding it makes me really analyse the art more and question what I’m being shown and why. Sometimes I’ll even editorialise throughout the issues. It’s fun.

I’m not sure if many of you would have read a comic aloud, it makes it feel so different. It slows the process down but in an age where people complain the comic reading experience can flit by too quickly, this is a good way to pace it all out. You have to work with the sound effects, you give the action a bit more noise. Each character gets a voice, the narrator shows inflection, it’s like reader’s theatre.

There is one problem I do face, what am I allowed to read to my son at this stage? So far he’s helped me sample Parker: The Outfit, The Walking Dead, Fantastic Four, FrankenCastle, Ghost Rider, Proof, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, The Goon, The Invincible Iron Man, and a few others. Some of that isn’t too bad to read aloud in mixed company but some of it is a little more mature. When I read The Walking Dead, I really describe everything what’s happening, and verbalise all dialogue, and sometimes even add in back story elements I think he might find intriguing. I don’t think he can understand any of this but I wonder what is soaking into his subconscious. Should I not be describing how a resurrected vigilante kills Japanese monster hunters while the walking plant and werewolf look on? Does just asking that question make me a bad parent?

I don’t hold back from him, not yet, but soon I’ll have to. Soon he won’t be able to sit up with me and watch The Walking Dead hit television screens. Soon I can’t explain what Michonne is feeling. Soon the Grindhouse comics I love so much won’t be his morning read, I’ll be back to Spot and The Very Hungry Caterpillar (which is awesome not because it’s a classic but more because it ties math into it – double bill) and I think it’s a shame I’ll have to find my own private time to read my comics.

Though I can probably still read him things like Fantastic Four, right?

Conclusion

Reading with children, be it to them, around them, or over them, is an important aspect of any fair and even upbringing. I think you should read whatever you can to them while it’s convenient, be they comics, the sports section, car manuals, or a great kids’ book. The important thing, while they’re young, is to show them that books are loved within your household. The kid won’t mind if they are being read aloud the exploits of a bikie with a flaming skull for a head, at least not for a few months.


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