27.Jul.2010 When should children start on graphic novels & comics?

When should children start on graphic novels & comics? Well there’s a question.

I can’t remember when I started reading comics.

It was some time in the early years of primary school. And I can only really remember that because I got in trouble for running a comic lending business which lasted all of a few weeks. Somehow I found a stash of cheap Richie Rich and Caspar comics in this newsagent a little past my school in Balmain and I bought up a pile of them.

For some reason they had some kind of magnetic pull. Given the narratives were so terrible, perhaps it was the weird black & white advertisements for sea monkeys or that the lame stories that were completely foreign to my experience of the world to that point (largely a result of only being allowed to watch the ABC TV, the public broadcaster, and no commercial channels).

They were also very cheap.

And I figured being cheap I could, with the help of one of the more maligned characters of the class acting as ‘enforcer’, bring a bag of comics to school and ‘rent’ them out for a few cents a day.

I can’t quite remember how this little bit of capitalist entrepreneurialism came to an end, only that it did. One day I had my two foot-high of comics confiscated from my desk and then it was over. I seem to remember, too, that one of my friends – totally out of character – ‘borrowed’ one of the comics for an ‘extended period’.

Around the same time I devoured the entire Tintin series in a fortnight – as fast as I could get them all out of the library with borrowing limits – and it wasn’t until the subcultural legitimation of ‘graphic novels’ in the late 80s, early 90s that I got back into an occasional read. And of course, when I was in Brussels in the late 90s I made sure I visited the Musée Hergé.

So, given my experience of comics wasn’t grounded in any kind of parental encouragement – in fact the opposite (it was ‘proper books’ only) – when is the right time to start introducing Tintin and other comics into the reading pool?

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