Although comic books aren't on par with great literary masterpieces, they can be a useful tool for encouraging children to read. This is especially true when you're dealing with children who read below grade level or those who are learning English as a second language. The short format of comic books, combined with illustrations that help reinforce key points in the story, makes for an enjoyable way for poor readers to build their comprehension skills.
Read Free Comic Books Online
If you have a child who is interested in comic books, you don't need to spend a small fortune to build his library. The Internet is a wonderful resource for people who want to read free comic books.
- Marvel Digital Comics offers selected samples of comic books featuring popular Marvel characters as an example of what is available through the company's digital subscription service.
- DC Comics offers PDF downloads of the first issues to selected Vertigo series, although parents might want to review these for content before giving them to their children. Many of the issues cover themes that are a bit more mature than you'd expect from the traditional DC Comics.
- The Collins Compendium of Free Online Comic Books offers an impressive collection of links to Web sites providing free comic books for visitors to enjoy, although not all titles are necessarily appropriate for young audiences.
- Golden Age Comics has free downloads of comics that are now in the public domain. It's unlikely your kids have heard of many of these characters, but you may find some favorites you remember from your own childhood or your child may discover a new retro favorite.
UNL Libraries has compiled an impressive collection of scanned copies of various government-produced comic books that are educational in nature. Some of the titles available include:
- A Penny Saved: Why and How We Save and How Saving Helps the U.S. Economy
- Adventures of the Garbage Gremlin
- Captain America Goes to War Against Drugs
- Dennis the Menace Takes a Poke at Poison
- Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids: Buzzy's Rebound
- Navy History and Tradition: The Daring and Diplomacy that Built a Great Nation and Navy
- Spider-Man Special Edition: The Trial of Venom
- The New Teen Titans Problem Child
Each comic book featured on this site is available as an Adobe PDF download. The files can be rather large, so be patient if you have a slower than average Internet connection. Once the comic is downloaded, however, you can either read it on your computer or print the pages off to save like a traditional comic book. If you choose to print off your comic, you may want to see if your printer has a double-sided printing option to help conserve paper. Most files are between 20 and 40 pages in length.
Educational Free Comic Books
Although the UNL Libraries site appears to be the largest resource for free educational comic books online, there are a number of organizations offering special issues of comic books suitable for use in classroom lesson plans. Most are available as free PDF downloads, although some groups will allow teachers to order multiple copies for classroom use.
- The University of Texas offers a free download of an educational Cindy in Space comic book that explores concepts related to astronomy and outer space.
- The Center for the Study of the Public Domain offers a free download of Bound by Law, a comic book discussing concepts relating to copyright law and intellectual property rights within the United States.
- The Seattle and King County Department of Public Health has a free downloadable comic that talks about the influenza pandemic of 1918 and discusses emergency preparedness tips. This comic was written to deal with the worst-case scenario of the spread of the H1N1 flu.
- PETA for Kids is offering a free set of four comic books on animal rights issues upon request.
Celebrate Free Comic Book Day
Fans of comic books will want to make a point of marking their calendars for Free Comic Book Day. Celebrated on the first Saturday of May, this annual event has participating comic book shops handing free comic books to anyone who visits the store. The event has been held each year since 2002, with a different set of comic books being given away each year.
As part of their Free Comic Book Day celebrations, many retailers choose to hold creator signings, role playing events, and other special promotions to coincide with the giveaway of the comic books. This can be a great way for young comic book fans to get excited about their favorite stories.
To learn more about Free Comic Book Day or to locate a participating comic book shop in your area, visit the Free Comic Book Day Web site.
Visit Your Local Library
While you may not think of your local library as a place to read free comic books, an increasing number of libraries are using the popularity of comic books to encourage young readers to visit their facilities. Traditional comics are often located with the library's magazine subscriptions, while the longer graphic novels can typically be found in the young adult book area.