When you picture your favorite superheroes, what do you see?
Maybe you picture Spider-Man swinging from skyscraper to skyscraper in New York City or The Incredible Hulk smashing your boss’s car.
For the superheroes at Ontario Street Comics, they picture themselves saving the world by encouraging children to read.
Port Richmond’s Ontario Comics hosted the first-ever Superheroes Read Too event last weekend.
The goal of the event was to encourage young children to read more by using comics. And what better way to get children to read than for their favorite superheroes to read to them?
Throughout the day, parents and their children made their way around the shelves filled with comic books, action figures and collectibles while cosplayers dressed as Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Ms. Marvel and many more took photos with, talked to and read comics to kids.
Superheroes seem to be a common part of a child’s life in today’s world, with some of the highest-grossing films being superhero-based such as Captain America or The Avengers. What children see on the screen might have a strong impact on their minds, which makes an event such as the reading initiative a unique opportunity, according to the creator.
The brainchild behind the event was Joshua Astacio, local photographer and comic book lover.
Astacio developed the idea out of a desire to get his younger brother interested in reading. His younger brother is at a time in his schooling where he receives many book reports and essays to do and he sometimes lacks the desire to read, but Astacio hoped to change that by introducing him to more and more comics.
“He doesn’t want to read big books or novels, but comics? He’ll sink into them for days,” Astacio said. “So I thought why not do it on a bigger scale, where we can have our heroes come and read to you?”
The idea is that kids will see their favorite heroes or villains reading comics and be inspired and want to follow in their footsteps. Instead of putting on a mask and taking to the streets to fight crime, kids can pick up a comic and read and get lost in the story with their parents.
When a parent goes to teach their child how to read, they start with board or activity books, things that are easy to hold with have colorful imagery and comics are both easy to hold, pleasant to look at, and are an easy read, according to Astacio.
“That’s the great thing about comics,” he said, “You can pick up any comic and it’s easy to read to your kids.
Although people may think comics are only geared to older audiences, bigger named superheroes like Batman or Superman have comics written for younger audiences, according to Astacio.
Bill Fink, owner and “captain” at Ontario Comics, opened up his doors and held the event in hopes that more parents will see the value in letting their children read comics.
“Hopefully this will spread across the internet and create a little literacy movement,” he said. “Comics are a great tool to teach children how to read because they can make a better connection with the words and pictures on the page.”
This is not the first time Fink made an effort to bring comics into a child’s life.
Last year, Ontario Comics donated hundreds of comic books to John H. Webster, with hopes that the children would become interested in reading.
With Free Comic Book Day coming up in May, Fink hopes to bring the superhero reading event that Astacio created into schools. The hope is that cosplayers dressed as kids’ favorite superheroes can introduce more children to the wonders of reading comics.
Of the dozens of superheroes present, Batman, aka The Dark Night of PA, who asked that his identity be kept a secret, was on hand to read some Batman comics to some very excited children.
”I got the Bat Signal from Bill and Joshua,” he said. “They are trying to encourage children to read and it’s a great cause.”
For Batman, comics were introduced to him early on as a child and turned him on to reading.
Now, he encourages parents to do the same for their children.
Batman hopes there will be more events like it because it’s something he believes truly works.
“I hope we can continue this. It seems to really work,” he said. “The parents seemed encourage that their children wanted to read a book that Batman read to them.”
For being the first time, Astacio, Fink, and the many cosplayers in attendance found the event to be a success.
Although there is no set date for the next event, the hope is that more parents, children, and cosplayers show up and read.
For upcoming reading events, follow Ontario Street Comics on Facebook.