Before my daughter Faye was born, I had already stocked up on a couple hundred children's books, new and old, in hopes of passing along my love of reading to her. I believe instilling reading and comprehension skills early in a child's life will help them in all areas of their lives: educational, social, vocational, etc.
Building a Bond Through Reading
When she was a baby, I was already regularly reading to her. When Faye was a little older, we had a fun bedtime ritual; she would build a "nest" out of her stuffed animals, and then pick out a stack of books that I would read to her before bed. Maybe it was a ploy to put off going to sleep ... maybe not. Sometimes, after the Barney television show ended, she would take my hand and say, "Bedtime," while leading me to her bedroom.
Creating A Lifetime Reader With Comic Books
In addition to normal children's books like Dr. Seuss and Berenstain Bears titles, we also read comic books. The colorful imagery, engaging and funny stories (and, without doubt, an animated reading performance on my part), kept my daughter asking for more stories.
Once she was able to read on her own, she would read one comic book or chapter book after another, until I told her it was "Lights out - Time to go to sleep." To be honest, it's still difficult for me to say no to: "Can I read just one more chapter?"
During the summer months, when children are out of school, they do a lot of educational back-sliding; they have to spend the first few weeks of the fall term re-learning and re-establishing learning habits. What better way (other than summer school) to get your child to read through the summer than with a stack of comic books?
Anyway, I understand that not all parents - or adults, in general - have strong reading skills or even have an affinity for reading. (Growing up, we didn't have a lot of books in our house, either.) For those grown-ups who wish to instill a fondness for reading — and share adventures with young people — don't overlook the power of the comic book.
If you don't know which titles are appropriate for the child/children you have in mind, I recommend "A Parent's Guide to the Best Kids' Comics" by Scott Robins and Snow Wildsmith, who share their children's literature knowledge to recommend and review age-appropriate books. (Normally just $16.99, this excellent book is currently steeply discounted in our online bookstore, KrauseBooks.com.)
Postscript: If you're wondering how Faye is doing with her reading, she just completed seventh grade and scored the highest in her class for reading and comprehension in the latest battery of standardized tests. When we are going to be in the car for any length of time, she will still grab a stack of comic books or a handful of books to pass the time. I suspect I have, indeed, created a life-long reader.