Thursday, June 04, 2015

Comics, heroes magically lead to reading

Who'd've thunk?
SOMEWHERE IN THE GULF OF MEXICO — My geek flag flew unashamedly last week during a cruise to Mexico with my family. I won a ship on a stick — a shipskabob — as much for my deep and abiding knowledge of comic book lore as for my ability to tell people what they think they want to hear.

The emcee, presenting me with the trophy, pointed out my “Star Trek” T-shirt, and I pointed out I was also holding an old Doc Savage paperback. (In my defense, I came to the contest directly from the pool deck, where I had been reading in between dips in the salt water. If I’d had time to change, I would have worn my Wonder Woman shirt instead).

“Yes, I am a true geek,” I said.

Another aside: The only reason I didn’t tie for the win with my son was because he wrote down the actual correct answers, while I wrote down the nearly-correct answers I believed the emcee was looking for. We will share the trophy.

We had a good showing for the cruise: My daughter won the Harry Potter trivia contest earlier in the week — which included a sudden-death(ly hallows) tie breaker — and received a matching plastic cruise ship simulacrum.

The wins can be attributed to one thing: We love to read. We prefer stories steeped in imagination and heroism, but we also love the beauty of the word under a poet’s hand, the truth of a tale well told.

I can easily point to comic books as my gateway drug to being a life-long reader (and writer). And it’s why I’m excited to see the Northwest Florida Regional Library’s summer reading programs: the Bay County libraries are using super heroes (as well as non-super powered everyday heroes) and comic books to lead kids into reading.

•“Heroes Read!” is a series of sessions suggested for children ages 6 and younger, and includes family storytime, talking, singing, reading, writing and playing. Topics include What’s Your Superpower?, Animal Heroes, and Heroes Live @ Your Library.

•“Every Hero Has a Story” is for kindergarten through grade 5, and incorporates books with art, crafts, special guests and professional entertainment. The sessions include topics like “Mad Scientists.”

•“Unmask!” is suggested for students in grades 6-12. It includes self-directed maker spaces, props, crafts, technology support and a readers’ theater.

For dates, times and other details, check the library nearest you: Panama City Beach Library, 12500 Hutchison Blvd., Panama City Beach (233-5055); Bay County Public Library, 898 W. 11th St., Panama City (522-2118); and Springfield Public Library, 408 School Ave., Springfield (872-7510). Or for a full schedule, visit

Before you know it, these kids will graduate from reading illustrated stories, to writing their own, making art, shooting photos, directing movies — finding their own paths to creativity and imagination. That’s the goal.

Winning a plastic trophy is just for bragging rights.

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