Parents – Want to have a fun time with your kids at an event that actively encourages them to read? Then you should definitely take advantage of Free Comic Book Day, which takes place this Saturday, May 4th. I can tell you from experience that it’s a whole lot of fun.
What is Free Comic Book Day? To quote the official FCBD website:
Free Comic Book Day is a single day – the first Saturday in May each year – when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely FREE to anyone who comes into their stores.
Now – important qualification coming – that doesn’t mean that EVERY comic in the store is free. What is does mean is that most of the major comic book companies publish special “free” issues for the stores to pass out on Free Comic Book Day. These free books are often designed to hook new readers, so they make a great introduction to comics and comic series that your kids may not have been exposed to yet.
If you’re interested to see what titles are available for Free Comic Book Day, Glen Weldon (from NPR’s Monkey See blog) compiled a wonderful breakdown of the best free comics for kids this year. You can find it here: Which Comics Should I Get? Your Free Comic Book Day Cheat Sheet
And, if you click on this link, you can find the Free Comic Book Day Store Locator that can help you find a store near you that’s participating in FCBD this year.
FAIR WARNING #1 – Most stores don’t let you take unlimited copies of the free comics. Most have some policy or limit in place. Some stores only let you take one free comic per person (Boo!), some let you take four comics per person (Yay!), and, if your local store isn’t getting much foot traffic that day, some stores will let you take as many as you want (Double Yay!). You might want to call ahead to confirm your local store’s policy.
FAIR WARNING #2 - You should definitely confirm that any local store is participating before you take your kids there this Saturday. There are a lot of really amazing comic stores in North America and there are a lot of really, really awful, soul-sucking, worst-case scenario comic book stores too. If you go to the wrong kind of store, you’ll quickly learn that The Simpsons‘ Comic Book Guy isn’t that big of a caricature.
The best comic book stores utilize Free Comic Book Day as their major community outreach tool for the year. They turn it into a family event. We have a great store near us that has crafts for kids, contests, visiting comic book artists, a keg for the parents (seriously) – they really work to turn it into a welcoming, all-inclusive event. Kids show up in costume, parents get to share their favorite titles with their young ones, everyone gets a chance to try something new and have fun reading free comics.
Other comic shops (the worst kind) horde the free issues, don’t promote the event at all, and actively discourage young kids from browsing their store. These shops SUCK and deserve to be run out of business.
But, in my experience, most comic shops that participate in Free Comic Book Day are the right kind of stores and – even if your local shop isn’t pulling out all the stops – it’s totally worth just dropping in with your kids this Saturday to pick up some fun, free reading material.
I’ve always been a bit of a comic book evangelist. I’ve loved the medium for years, but I’ve particularly become passionate about comics again now that I’m a father. This is mostly because I really think comic books are an underappreciated reading resource for young kids. Visual sequential storytelling (a fancy term for “comics”) engages kids at a very high level and, in my experience, it adds a whole new level of visual context to the reading experience that’s incredibly helpful for developing readers.
Also, comics are AWESOME, so there’s that too. So, if your kids love comics or if you’re looking to get your kids interested in comics, take advantage of Free Comic Book Day this year and share the joy of reading with them at a low, low price.