Summer is upon us, and there’s no better time to read than now. With so many days before school starts again, summer vacation can be a great opportunity for children to hone their reading skills. In fact, not reading seems to only do harm! According to numerous studies, “summer learning loss” is a real phenomenon that results in a loss of the skills acquired during the school year. Students on average score lower on the same standardized test at the end of the summer than at the beginning.

Tony Evers, State Superintendent of Public Instruction for Wisconsin, said in a local newspaper, “The loss in mathematics, spelling, and reading skills can accumulate each year so that by the end of sixth grade, children who repeatedly experience summer learning loss can be as much as two years behind their classmates.” He noted that just reading 10 or more books over the summer can help maintain or improve a child’s academic skills.

Luckily, comics make reading a whole lot of fun. Kids love comics, and their visual appeal encourages even the most reluctant of readers to open a book during those long summer days. Schools and libraries, as well as media outlets across the country have included TOON Books on their summer reading lists. This year, “Little Mouse Gets Ready” was selected for the Illinois School Library Media Association’s list of book nominations for the Monarch Award, where all children from grades K to 3 in the state are open to vote for their favorite book at their school libraries (the book with the most votes gets the top prize). Prolific children’s book reviewer Holly Newton, whose weekly column appears in the most widely distributed paper in mid-Missouri, included a number of TOON Books, including our new “Silly Lilly in What Will I Be Today?,” on her summer reading list of books for early readers.

Are TOON Books on your summer reading list?

 
 

The talented R. Kikuo Johnson is hard at work coloring the pages for Shark King, an upcoming TOON book. Here’s a sneak peak at some of the black & white art and one early color sample.













Every little boy who’s seen this book so far has gone nuts over it.

 
 

Claude Ponti’s upcoming TOON book stars two mischievous chicks. Here’s a preview of a few of the pages:

When Kate DeRosier, the accounts manager for Boarders, Amazon and Ingram at Candlewick Press, saw the page above, she said, “I just fell in love with the tops of their heads.”

 
 

When TOON Books launched in 2008, they seemed to defy established categories—as comics especially designed for emerging readers to read on their own. So where do they belong on the shelves? At West Palm Beach Public Library in Florida, Youth Services Librarian Kathy Hage shelves our books in the graphic novels section, where enthusiastic readers often go for more fun reading. Kathy said, “We find early readers want to read comics and head to that section, so we decided to place books at their reading level there too. It’s also a great way to show parents the value of comic books…I love telling parents about how TOON Books came into being and how they are a great way to encourage their child to love reading!” We’re curious to know, where do you shelve TOON Books?

Kathy also shared with us that children read Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework for the library’s second and third grade book club, and they absolutely loved it! “The children were so excited to read a comic in their book club and loved talking about all sorts of fun science facts together. It was definitely a hit,” Kathy said.

Below are some photos of our TOON Books on the shelves of the West Palm Beach Public Library:

 
 

Should comics be taken seriously? Last week, the United Kingdom’s first degree program in comic studies was launched at Dundee University in Scotland. One Scottish politician criticized the graduate program; the Courier reported that Glasgow South Labour Member of Parliament (MP) Tom Harris made snide remarks over Twitter, stating that the new degree “dumbed down” the post graduate system. He later added comments like “Coming soon to a university near you: a BSc in Battlestar Galactica — comparisons of the original v the reboot. Nine grand a year,” and that he was “looking forward to Sheffield University doing a degree in forks.”

The city of Dundee is home to the publisher, DC Thomson and Co., who was the company behind such publications as Dennis the Menace and The Broons. Although Harris did not hesitate to make his feelings known, there were many who disagreed with him. Stewart Hosie, Dundee East MP, told the Courier, “This masters degree in comic book studies is a first-class idea. Comic books are a global industry.”

As if to prove the point, the Moscow University of Industry and Finance also announced last week that they plan to open a Department of Comics in the fall, headed by Russian-born animator and comic books author Pavel Sukhikh. The “comics masterclass” will feature subjects like “Storytelling,” “Character Creation,” and “Technical Study,” reported the Animation Insider blog.

We’re happy to join the side arguing in favor of these new university programs. It’s about time comics gets the same serious treatment as other mediums. In Julie Danielson’s review of our latest TOON Books release, Patrick in “A Teddy Bear’s Picnic,” on the Kirkus Review blog, she noted the success of comic books as a tool for new readers.

“Given their approach to this series, Mouly and Spiegelman’s venture was being marketed as a contemporary spin on emerging readers. But I say then and now (though I think hardly anyone would still refer to comics as a passing fancy) that what matters is taking a close look at the books themselves: Are they high-quality literature for children? Yes. Since it was launched three years ago, the series has brought readers nearly 15 outstanding titles by artists from a wide range of backgrounds—established children’s book author/illustrators (Agnès Rosenstiehl), cartoonists and comic books artists (Harry Bliss and Jeff Smith), and some new talent (Trade Loeffler). And the titles have racked up a whole slew of honors, including Theodor Seuss Geisel nods on more than occasion.”
(Read the rest of the review here. Read Danielson’s recent post on TOON Books on her own book blog, “7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast,” here.)

Dr. Chris Murray, who will lead the Dundee University comics program, told BBC News, “Employability is an important consideration for any postgraduate programme, and it lies at the heart of what we aim to do with this course. There will be practical advice on publishing and developing a career as a comics scholar, writer or artist, and we hope to arrange work placements for students.”

When we asked Geoffrey Hayes, children’s author and illustrator of the Benny and Penny series and Patrick in “A Teddy Bear’s Picnic,” whether he thought a professional career in comics was financially viable, he replied, “Today, comics are more popular than ever…now, more than any other time, is making a living out of comics possible.” He added that comics are now widely used for children’s education, like TOON Books’ early readers. When Geoffrey learned of the graduate program at Dundee University, he responded: “I wish they had a program like this when I was going to school. I had to learn how to do it [writing and illustrating children’s books] on my own.”

 
 

We received a great surprise when an email came in informing us that a Polish lifestyle magazine has published an article on our books! In an extensive piece on American children’s comics, Kikimora Magazine featured TOON Books such as “Otto’s Orange Day,” “Jack in the Box,” and “Mo and Jo in Fighting Together Forever.” Author Katarzyna Nowakowska covered the gamut from newspaper strip comics like “Garfield” and “Peanuts” (the Peanuts cartoons in Polish are absolutely adorable!), to DC Comics and Japanese manga. In her conclusion, she lauded the use of comics as a way for young children to fall in love with reading. We couldn’t agree more!

Thank you, Kikimora, for loving our books!