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Comics a first step in reading journey

Associate Professor Loh Chin Ee recording an episode of her new podcast, How We Read.
Associate Professor Loh Chin Ee recording an episode of her new podcast, How We Read.ST PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN

National Institute of Education (NIE) Associate Professor Loh Chin Ee does not stop her son, 11, and daughter, nine, from reading comic books.

"It's a misconception that comics are bad for children," says Prof Loh, who is deputy head (research) at NIE's English Language and Literature Academic Group.

"Comics make for easy reading, and when children find reading easy, they find it enjoyable. When they enjoy a book, they read more, their reading proficiency improves and they become more fluent readers," she says.

"From there, they progress to more difficult books, which include chapter books and novels or even complex graphic novels.

"They might often return to their 'easy' books as a way to relax, but that's fine."

Prof Loh, 45, recently produced and hosted a new podcast, How We Read. Available on major podcast platforms, the seven-part series explores topics such as reading comics and the neuroscience behind a child's reading journey.

She says children should read not only to excel in writing compositions, but also to learn more about the world.

"Wide reading is what we want to encourage our students to do and this means exposing them to a wide range of genres, formats and topics," says the former English language and literature secondary school teacher.

She suggests that parents capitalise on their kids' love of comics to recommend books accordingly.

For example, if they have read the comic version of The Baby-Sitters Club by Raina Telgemeier - which is about growing up, friendship and independence - they can recommend the Ann M. Martin novel on which the comic is based.

If they enjoy historical comics, refer them to books and novels set in wartime or other historical periods.

Prof Loh remembers reading The Adventures Of Tintin, Asterix, Mad Magazine, Beano, Archie, Lao Fu Zi and other comic books when she was growing up.

She says: "Not every child likes comics, but for those who do, it's one way for them to start reading."

What to read with your child

Associate Professor Loh Chin Ee suggests comic titles for children age nine and up.


By Reimena Yee and Tintin Pantoja

Difference Engine/Paperback/$18.08/Available at Books Kinokuniya

"Recommended by my daughter, this is the first book by local comics publisher, Difference Engine. It is about friendship, Steam (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics), creativity and inclusiveness. It's wonderful the protagonists are girls, breaking stereotypes that only boys like to code."


By Nathan Hale

Amulet Books/Paperback/$23.40/Available at Books Kinokuniya

"My son likes Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series, which is set during World War II and significant periods in American history. Actually, there are plenty of historical comics out there to satisfy history buffs."


By Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

Dial Books for Young Readers/Paperback/$22.42/Available at Books Kinokuniya

"Set in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya, the visuals help children to explore difficult issues and understand more about our diverse world in a way that plain text may not."

•This is part of a series where experts give tips on how to get kids to love reading.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2021, with the headline 'Comics a first step in reading journey'. Subscribe