Experts say every kid should read for at least 15 minutes a day. A University of Windsor professor says comic books are a good way to encourage kids to meet that suggested requirement and keep them reading through adulthood.
English professor Dale Jacobs claims comic books are a legitimate form of literature and can encourage reluctant readers to embrace more sophisticated texts.
Jacobs also says comic books and graphic novels are just as challenging as purely alphabetic works.
"Comics have been used as a scaffold to teaching word-based literacy, and they work for that really well, involving reluctant readers," Jacobs said. "If you have a kid who doesn't like reading, often if you give them comic books, it will be a good bridge."
Jacobs recently published a book on the subject.
Graphic Encounters: Comics and the Sponsorship of Multimodal Literacy explores how critics in the 1940s and 50s called comics an assault on literacy; studies how it was embraced by organized religion; and eventually how libraries sponsored literacy through comics.
Jacobs acknowledges that his new book academic, but hopes it has a wider appeal.
"I want it to be a book that will be useful for educators, for librarians, parents, people interested in different ways of thinking about literacy," he said.
For example, Jacobs said the comic, graphic novel like Maus, "is one of the most heart rendering, complex explorations of the holocaust that I've ever read."
In 1992 it became the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.
The chair of the Emergent Literacy Network of Windsor and Essex County says comics are just one of many literary choices a child or parent can make.
"Comic books or graphic novels are just another tool families can use to get their children interested in reading," Terri Cooper said. "We know children have potential slumps in their interest in reading at different ages so you can use this as a different tool to get them reading."
Cooper said the way children consume media has changed but reading is still essential.
"This is a very visual world these days with iPads and smartphones and computers, kids are very often attracted to graphics in graphic novels," Cooper said. "It's a great way for kids with weaker language skills. The text is shorter so they don't have to decode as much information and the pictures help decode the information."