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A Little Comic Relief

Paul Grech Thursday, July 7, 2011 ,
Looking back, it wasn’t a particularly healthy habit. Growing up, from an early age my dinners would be accompanied with a comic from a stack that someone had given us that I would read as I ate. It was often juvenile stuff – the Beano or the Dandy – and it got to a point where I knew every one of them by heart. And still I kept going through them.

Later on, I would task anyone who I knew was going to Italy to get me a copy of the latest Paperino edition or would do a little squeal of delight every time the local stationer stocked a new copy of the World War II themed Commando comic. I still recall my joy at coming across an Asterix graphical novel at the public library and how I read through it over and over again.

Comics were my first portal to the world of books. It is through them that I fell in love with reading; they were the ones that lit my passion for the published word. From them I graduated to the Enid Blyton’s children books that seemed to be the only ones the local library stocked for kids my age and then on to every book I could lay my hands on.

Yet I also recall being told off for reading comics and how they would do nothing for my vocabulary. They will make you lazy, I was told, and you won’t want to read normal books. Judging by how much I read today, and the fact in itself that I’m writing in this magazine would indicate that I’ve managed to build enough of my vocabulary, reading those comics didn’t hinder at all.

Indeed, it was exactly the opposite. They showed me that reading was fun, they taught me how to follow a story and they boosted my imagination. Often, when I’m reading or writing, I think back to those dinners with a comic besides me that laid the foundation for everything.

Thankfully, my kids love books and have tried to learn to read from a very early age. For them, a trip to the library is akin to a visit to the sweetshop, such is the excitement that it generates. But I realise that I’m among the lucky ones. Just as much as I am aware that this could all change as soon as they’re given the first school text book which they have to read for their curriculum. Nothing can suck the joy out of something like being forced into doing it.

So I’m already looking for ways to keep them interested and, if the lessons of my childhood are anything to go by, then comics and graphic novels are the perfect solution. They’ve definitely loved the ones I’ve gotten them so far which is always a joy for me.

Just as long as they don’t read them during dinner.

This article was first published in the Summer 2011 issue of Growing Up in Malta magazine


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