This has been bugging me for a while now, and I’ve got to say something. It was spurred by an article in The Oregonian, and pointed out by Brigid Alverson of Good Comics for Kids. The gist of the Oregonian article was teachers incorporating comics into the classroom, through the Comic Book Project, a joint effort by Dark Horse Comics and Columbia University of New York. Included in the article was the following quote:
As many parents with school age children know, getting your child to read can sometimes be a real hassle. This is especially true if your child is struggling in school. In this post-“No Child Left Behind”-world, this can mean pressure from teachers and schools to get your child to improve. I was having this problem with my youngest daughter.
Now, I’ve always believed the way to get someone interested in reading, was to give them a book about something they were interested in or enjoyed. So with my youngest, we tried finding books that she would like, and let her choose the books she wanted to read, but she still struggled with her reading, and never wanted to do it. We were at a loss of what to do, until we found a breakthrough in the form of an anime.
As well as reading manga, I enjoy watching anime based on manga. One series I got interested in was Sgt. Frog from Tokyopop. When I found some fansubs online, I downloaded them to check the anime out. So, I’m out in the living room, watching the shows, and both my daughters come out to see what I was doing. Since these are fansubs, in order to understand what was going on, you had to read the subtitles. Now this isn’t the first time I’ve watched fansubs, or other anime with subtitles. It’s how I prefer to watch my anime. But, this was the first time the girls, especially my youngest, really showed an interest sitting down and actually watching it.
They not only liked watching it, they hijacked the series from me! My youngest starting taking the episodes and watching them in her room. She also started searching Youtube to find videos and more episodes. After doing this for a few weeks, I noticed her reading was starting to improve. She didn’t mind sitting down and reading. She didn’t keep asking if it had been 20 minutes yet (as dictated for homework every night). She was reading whole books (about 60 pages, early chapter books)! Nothing else had changed in that time period. The only thing I could think of that could have spurred this change, was her watching and having to read subtitles.
So, while TV is still a wasteland, it can still have it’s uses. I’m not going to say that this will work for everyone. I think it worked for us, because the girls were already used to the idea of subtitles. It wasn’t until she found something she was really liked and couldn’t see in english, that my youngest finally put an effort into improving her reading skills. But, if you have child prefers TV to books, and they enjoy anime, maybe encouraging them to check out the japanese tracks with subtitles might yield some results.