Saturday, November 21, 2009

Comics for Early Readers: TOON Books

Kids love comic books.  Whenever we get a new comic book in the library, there's a mad rush to check it out. Comic books are stimulating and engaging; they are complex and yet very easy to dive into. But reading comic books takes certain skills. We read comics in a different way than we read other picture books or stories. If you have an early reader, take a look at these two comic books and the websites that go along with them.  Toon Books is a new publishing division of Raw Books that focuses specifically on comic books for early readers.

Check out Toon Book Reader, a fantastic online site that helps bring comics alive for young kids, while teaching them important reading skills. Kids can read a book online, clicking on text bubbles to have the story read aloud to them.  My kindergartner loves the interactive nature of this site, and it's fascinating watching her learn how to read the comic book.  You need to read the text bubbles in order, from top to bottom, within a panel.  And you need to read the panels in order.  You  need to think about the action that the pictures show, and figure out where the action or setting changes between panels.  This site is a great resource for kids practicing early reading skills at home: it's fun, engaging and free!  Toon Books has developed this site in conjunction with the Professor Garfield Foundation, a leader in online educational literacy programs. 
Little Mouse Gets Ready
by Jeff Smith
NY: Toon Books, 2009
(ages 3 - 6)

Little Mouse Gets Ready is for early readers in kindergarten and 1st grade.  It's a sweet and funny story about a little mouse who must get dressed before he can go to the barn.  Each step takes careful work, from putting his underwear on and checking the tag is in the back, to buttoning a shirt.  The gentle humor will remind little kids of all that they have to do.  As you can see from this picture of a page, the text is very simple and easy to follow.

"I'm going to the barn with your brothers and sisters.  Are you ready to go?" says Little Mouse's mother.  "Almost, Mama."  If you'd like to read the book online, click the image above. As Booklist says, "Smith's deceptively simple style is a terrific match for a young audience—one- or two-panel pages that are elegant, lighthearted, and touching all at once—and a knock-your-socks-off twist at the end will leave children giggling."
Benny And Penny in The Big No-No
by Geoffrey Hayes
NY: Toon Books, 2009
ages 4 - 8
Benny and Penny are two squabbling siblings playing together in their backyard.  When they discover that a neighbor has moved in next door, they become convinced that this new neighbor must have stolen Benny's missing pail.  Curiosity leads them into a big no-no: climbing the fence to see for themselves.  They end up meeting their neighbor and discovering the peril in making assumptions.  This book is more complex than Little Mouse, with multiple panels per page.  The story is inventive and the characters thoughts and dynamic expressions make it come to life.  My daughter immediately asked for this be read again, and then again the next night.

As Francoise Mouly, the founder and editorial director of Toon Books, said, "Comic invite repeated readings, because there's more to find in the images.  In the first reading you get the story, but in the second reading you get all the little supporting players, all the way that the theme is conveyed... I think comics are a medium where kids can get readily involved - there's something in it for them that is decipherable." (Scholastic Parent and Child)

Click on these illustrations to read the book online at Toon Book Reader. If you like this story, check out Benny and Penny in Just Pretend.

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