Doodle Adventures Author Mike Lowery on Using Comics to Reach Reluctant Readers

Mike Lowery

Mike Lowery has illustrated a wide range of children’s books, from The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School to the Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius Guides Series. Lowery’s first written and illustrated children’s book, The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs, invites young readers to collaborate with him by drawing themselves into the book and helping to complete the story (which features an exciting international exploration with a duck named Carl)! A sweet, zany tale of adventure that encourages readers to utilize their imaginations—and their drawing skills—The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs is the first in Lowery’s new Doodle Adventures series—it hits stores on May 17, and is available for pre-order now. The second book, The Pursuit of the Pesky Pizza Pirate! is also available for pre-order and will be out in September. Lowery shared his experiences using graphic novels and comics to encourage reluctant readers.

A friend of mine has a son who is almost exactly one year older than my daughter. He was always just a few steps ahead of her and I often gauged the next developmental milestones by where he was. So, when my friend’s son started reading almost right out of the womb, I assumed that, that’s the way it would be for my daughter too. But I was wrong. She’s almost nine now, and what has turned into an insatiable appetite for books, started slowly and took a long time to foster.

Just like my mother did with me, I read to her every night. This helped develop her love for stories, but it also helped her develop the ability to sit still and set aside a little time every day for books. This is something that gets a lot harder when they’re older because books are competing with gadgets and TV, so it was important to start that as early as possible.

I specifically chose books with a lot of interaction, like finding small items on busy pages, so she would get engaged in the story and would talk it through with me. One of her (and my) favorites was MOUK, by Marc Boutavant. MOUK is the story of a little bear traveling around the world and the pages are absolutely packed with fun stuff for readers to discover. MOUK is great because it just has a little bit of text on each page, but the pages are so full that my daughter would spend hours just poring over the book.

We would also read chapter books that had a lot of drawings in them like the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey. I can’t say enough about this series. They’re not just popular because of the underpants humor. They’re really funny and were definitely one of the titles that got my daughter reading more.

So after a few years, she loved looking at books but reading them and being excited to read them would come later. One of the biggest obstacles early on for her, like a lot of kids, was her frustration with the process. She hated not being able to read PERFECTLY, so she often became too impatient to slow down and try and take it one step at a time.

Her breakthrough came in a supermarket checkout line in the form of a red-headed, all-American teenager. Yep. Archie. As an illustrator and an artist, I’ve surrounded my daughter with the best comics, picture books and graphic novels for kids since she was an infant, but for some reason it was Archie that got her attention. I was surprised, but I didn’t fight it. We bought her a bunch and let her sit and look through them. At first she would just go page by page and look at the pictures, and sometimes I would read them to her, until slowly she started taking her time and reading the words to actually see what was going on. And now she just eats them up.

Comics and graphic novels are great for reluctant readers. You can read them faster than traditional books, so kids get a sense of accomplishment very quickly. They are also encouraged to read the text because they want to know what’s happening in the pictures.

Here are a few graphic novels and comics that I would recommend:

And for slightly older kids, I would suggest:

The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs is in stores on May 17.

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