Why Does Literacy Matter?

One topic that you’ll undoubtedly hear, if you hang around the shop long enough, is literacy.

We’ve written blogs on it.  We’ve spoken at cons about it.  We push it often.  Why?

Literacy is a foundational skill. Like any other skill, it has to be developed, grown, and challenged in order to improve and provide use.  My wife is currently teaching our 4 year old daughter how to tie her shoes. It requires dexterity, coordination, and TONS of patience.  But, the intent is that, with continued practice and time, it will become second nature to our Little Middle.

Unlike tying shoes, however, literacy is a skill that is vital for functioning as a fully-formed human, and sadly, it is a skill that is evading a large number of kids in our area.

The definition of literacy includes the ability to read, write, comprehend, and gain useful knowledge.  This means that we have to be able to not only read well, but take that information and synthesize it into something beneficial.  Medication labels, microwave dinners, power tools, you name it, all require you to be able to read and put the information to use.

Take a look at this infographic.

the-importance-of-reading-infographic

And this one.

prison

So how do we get kids to love reading?  How do we get kids to want to read?? Give them books of ALL sorts.  We need to put books in kids’ hands that speak to them and get them excited.  If they show an interest in something, get them books about that subject.  If your kid loves history, get them books about history.  If your kid loves weather, get them books about how weather works.  If they love the super hero movies that come out on a quarterly basis, get them comic books!

When a kid finds something that excites them and makes them want to read, even if it’s “above” their reading level, they’ll find a way to read it.

Read with your KIDS!  This is vital.  Spend time reading with them and having them read to you.  Let them see YOU reading.  When kids see mom and dad bringing home new books and stocking the home with stuff to read, it promotes the importance of reading in their eyes.  Get down in the floor with your little and crack open some of your favorite comics and show them how the panels work. Show them your excitement for the characters and it’ll become contagious.

Read-graphic (1)

Our shop keeps lots of the most popular young reader titles in stock: everything from Dog Man to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Smile.  We also have tons of older comics that they can stock up on for a buck a piece.

What is the main take-away?  Make books a priority for your littles.  Make time to read with them, and for them to have solo reading time.

In short, read often and read a variety of material and make sure that it is fun and exciting.  Your kids will thank you for it later on and you’ll help improve the future for them and our community.

 

Want to Improve our Community? Make Reading a Priority.

Reading is a vital component of being a productive member of society, but seems to be oft overlooked in favor of other pursuits.  I will spare you from the enormous amount of research available, but I will hit on some of the main points that must be addressed if we want to see our local and national communities thrive.

Take-aways:

  1. 3rd Grade is vital
  2. Stop forcing kids to read “the classics”
  3. 85% of children in juvenile detention are functionally low literate.
  4. Hopes of college can be squashed by 3rd grade.

So why is 3rd grade so important?  It’s important because it has shown to be a crossroad of sorts.  Curriculum tends to switch by the time fourth grade rolls around.  Fourth grade can tend to focus more heavily on math. This means that students that were struggling with developing their reading skills, if they are not confident in them, will really be left behind as math is now the main focus for the next few years.  It is kind of assumed that the child can now read, so let’s leave that subject and move on. The implication is that a child who is not currently at a 3rd grade reading level by the time 3rd grade rolls around, the child will have a significant disadvantage in growing in the ability.

Check out what the Reading Foundation has to say about the importance of 3rd grade literacy:

Reading is the most crucial academic skill because it is the foundation for learning. Through third grade children are learning to read; after third grade students read to learn. … In fact, one of the most important predictors of graduating from high school is reading proficiently by the end of third grade. 

So, if a student is unable to read well by the third grade, imagine how hard it will be to continue to learn new topics as the child gets into upper grades.  The child will be at a perpetual disadvantage with a very strong possibility of dropping out.  Highschool dropouts are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested and 47-63% probability of incarceration.

There is some compelling data that states that most people that are incarcerated have a low 6th grade reading level: some studies site it as possibly even a 3rd grade level. One could conclude that a child’s life course is set by grade 3. This is both frightening and sobering.

What does all this mean?

It means that we need to meet kids where they are and to pursue them with urgency.  It means that maybe we should open up to different types of literary works and stop forcing kids to read as punishment and out of obligations to the classic approach to engaging literature.  Maybe we should ease up on making kids read “classic” novels that have no bearing on their current lives and interests.

There is a ton of research out there that shows the benefits of getting comics into the classroom.  Kids love and need comics.  If you think that kids today are too fast paced and too engaged in there games and phones to care about comics, I challenge you to put a comic in their hands, or better yet sit down and enjoy it with them.

It starts at home.

Find stories that your kids love and then READ to them from an early age.  It helps to develop a love of hearing stories which can then translate in to the love of reading stories.  Fill your home with book and let your kids see you reading.  Share you love of comics and graphic novels with them.  Lay down in the floor and read the newest issue of Batman with them.  As I’ve mentioned before, get a stack of your comics and leave them in your kid’s room.

Don’t force reading and don’t make it an obligation.  We want kids to see reading as fun and something that they want to do! Reward reading! Get creative with the rewards.

As part of our shop’s mission, we hope to improve the lives of kids in our area by helping them develop this vital ability.  Our loyal friends that support us also support our mission because every purchase made at The HIVE helps to put comics in the hands of the kids in our school district as we donate books to schools.

Let’s work with our teachers, schools, and librarians to make some much needed changes and continue to invest in the future of our children.

-matt

sites for more info:

the relationship between incarceration and low literacy

research confirms importance of 3rd grade reading

why is 3rd grade most decisive

 

 

 

Doubling Down

ghosts

Recently, I have made some fairly sweeping changes to the books that will be ordered and sold in our shop in the coming months.  Oh, you haven’t heard?  Well, from, essentially, May on, we will no longer be ordering books that are rated at M, or MATURE, for our shop.

Here’s a link for a list, based on pulls

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1W-Fgddcws26yxtduY1KxBUIA4sr8YAL9tFTj_xetUps/edit?usp=sharing

Thing is, many of said books are super popular and sell very well.  Books like The Walking Dead, Saga, Redneck and many others are big sellers and we have many customers that currently have them on their pull-lists via our subscription service.

There is frustration and customers are upset.  I can totally understand and I also am aware that some of you have already begun to cancel your pull-lists and will possibly start getting comics elsewhere.

Let me state, that this was, in no way, an easy decision.  I knew that people who have been coming to my shop for almost a year now, might get upset.  It was not my intention, whatsoever, to  make customers mad.  If you’ll keep reading, I’d like to take you on a journey to shed light on the recent changes and some of the reasoning behind them.

Let’s go back to the early days, no not of The HIVE, but, the 1920s.

Comics had been a round for a while by this point.  They were seen as cheap entertainment and covered the gamut of themes. There was something for everyone at the time and it was great; “The Roaring 20’s”.

But, then the economy collapsed and there was no work, no food, no money for a pamphlet with silly stories.  It sucked.  Getting supper on the table was a feat in and of itself.  Domestic and violent crimes rose.  Kids saw their moms and dads fighting, sometimes violently.  This was a time when it was ok to smack your wife and your kids.

Nearly 10 years later, the country starts to pull itself out of the collapse and people start to have jobs again, America was back on the rise and people began to have a little more expendable income.

It’s 1938 and, in Cleveland, Ohio, two guys sat down and created one of the most important character of all time, Superman.

This begins what collectors call the “Golden Age” of comics.  Comics were cheap and affordable again. Most kids could afford 10 cents for adventure that they could read themselves into.

Soon after, many new faces started to show up.  Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, you name it.  These heroes fought the bullies and made sure that everything was as it should be.  They stood up for the little man.  Kids that had lived through the depression and were now 5 to 10 years old saw hope in these heroes.  They saw what it was like to fight for the greater good and to avenge wrongs.  Robin, while not technically the first sidekick, gave young readers someone they could relate with.

Then came the 1980s.

Those same kids were now getting older and were phasing out of reading comics.  They were too light-hearted and didn’t mesh with the problems of being an adult.

Publishers caught on and soon it was “Hey, we’re not just for kids anymore!”  Comics got darker, more violent, and dealt with heavier issues.  Now, before you raise up your copies of Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns and threaten to beat me with them, I think some of the best writing was done in this time.  Comics were taken to a new level or art and literature in this time.

But, in doing so, they swung the pendulum a bit too far.  Since then, and really up until recent years, there have been lots of great reads for adults and not a whole lot for kids. Remember, kids were the main devourers  of funny books, and now, they aren’t so funny.

The main points of contention in many of the books rated M would be the overt sex / and or language.  Call me a prude if you will, but i would argue that most of the time, the sex and language really add nothing to the story.

Take a certain Texas boy that writes several of the titles that we will no longer be carrying;  he also writes Thanos, Doctor Strange, and soon VENOM for Marvel.  All three of these titles are selling out and going for multiple reprints across the country.  They are great stories.  He’s the guy responsible for that Thanos 13 costing 40 bucks on Amazon.  These stories are rated T or T+, basically PG-13.

What does that tell me? That it is possible write AWESOME stories, that will sell like crazy, and they can be enjoyed by more people and without the content better suited for other media.

East of West is one of Image’s most praised titles and it is rated T+.  You should check it east of westout.

Point being; I want to make my shop as young reader and family friendly as possible.  It may alienate customers, and for that, I am sorry for the inconvenience and I hope that we can still be friends.  It is not a slight against anyone and what they choose to read.

My goal moving forward is for my shop to be an extension of me, my family, and my heart. I want kids filling my shop on Fridays and Saturdays because they feel safe and welcomed, not just by our staff, but also by the product we sell.  I won’t have to worry about what books they might come across (and no, I will not simply keep them in a separate area.)  You will be seeing a large amount of young reader books coming into the shop, a lot of which you will find listed at the top of many best seller lists.

Books that are young reader friendly do not have to be dry, dull, and pointless. Many of them teach great lessons on some pretty heavy topics, but are done in age appropriate ways.

You may say that I am prude and possibly anti-progressive.  I would challenge that and say that I am trying to build up those that will be taking us into the future and doubling down on that investment.

C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite authors, has stated:

“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

also

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

matt