Comics are foundation of new literacy program

Your Friendly Neighborhood Comic Shop, a local comic book and collectibles store, is using the comic book genre to help youth build their literacy skills while steering them towards a lifelong hunger for reading.

A local comic book and collectibles store is using the comic book genre to help youth build their literacy skills while steering them towards a lifelong reading habit.

Besides selling an array of comic books, graphic novels and collectible paraphernalia, Your Friendly Neighborhood Comic Shop is now home to “Super 2 Read,” a program developed to spur reading skills among youth attending schools in Brandon and area. Located at 1700 Pacific Avenue, the store has created the public education model based on a shared love of reading among its owners and employees.

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Previously known as the Eye Opener Book Store, the enterprise was purchased by Scott Bradley in 2017. Early this summer, Bradley moved the store from its long-time 10th Street location to the Pacific Avenue venue, providing another 500 square-feet of operation space. Some of this space is being set aside for the “Super 2 Read” program, which is designed and managed by Your Friendly Neighborhood Comic Shop’s community outreach and public education coordinator, Michelle Boudreau.

Besides having various comic and graphic novel packages and resources available to help local educators, families and individuals develop teaching strategies, the store is also hosting comic book-making seminars and, beginning Nov. 3, a Saturday morning kids’ club.

Boudreau said the store is also teaming with the Brandon Public Library next year on programing related to comics in an effort to further promote and improve literacy among youth.

“This is our own initiative; our own baby and our own creation,” Boudreau said. “We are starting the program here, but plan on taking it province-wide. We’re trying to get as many Manitoba companies that produce comics involved… There are companies that make curriculum guides that go across the country and they’ve put me in touch with illustrators and people who make Indigenous comics and graphic novels. Of course, we’ll still have the Star Wars and all the other best stuff because those are student favorites.”

The “Super 2 Read” initiative was born out of two things. Of course, everyone working at the local comic book store has a passion for the genre, but many of those who work there have kids and have seen them struggle with learning to read and maintaining an interest in the activity. Boudreau said their own children have developed a hunger for reading through comics and graphic novels, which led them to believe others would too.

“There is a lot of documentation out there saying comics and graphic novels have really helped children in critical thinking, evaluating, relating to and analyzing subject matter,” she said. “The genre develops more levels of understanding and helps them understand abstract thinking such as metaphor. It also breeds intellectual independence, helps with visual and verbal cues, comprehension of the creative elements of storytelling and, especially in younger children, decoding sentence structure.”

Thus far, Boudreau has put together a few packages for two educators working within Brandon. These include comics, books and other reading material along with lesson plans that can be found online. A “Super 2 Read” website is currently in development.
“We’re very excited to be doing this. It’s a labor of love,” Boudreau said. “I think, eventually, we’ll start seeing a lot of educators come in and order specific things and get our community reading.”

The “Super 2 Read” program will also have an outreach component. Boudreauvisit classrooms, public events and festivals to host comic book reading and writing sessions.

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