Super power of reading

Su­per­her­oes en­cour­age kids to de­vel­op love for lit­er­acy through com­ic books at Ontario Street Com­ics in Port Rich­mond.

  • A bat-tastic read: The Dark Knight of Pa shares a Batman comic book with a child. The children who attended the event received a free comic book and had the chance for their favorite superhero to read it to them. MATTHEW HAUBENSTEIN / STAR PHOTO

  • MATTHEW HAUBENSTEIN / STAR PHOTO

  • MATTHEW HAUBENSTEIN / STAR PHOTO

  • MATTHEW HAUBENSTEIN / STAR PHOTO

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. 

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