For me, Action Comics #463 was the first of many comic books. But why did comic books stick with me? Yes, there are the fantastical stories and the amazing art. It went beyond that though, to a problem I did not even know I had.
From an early age, I had a difficult time with reading. It was something that followed me all through grade school, junior high and high school. In fact, it was in college where I discovered there was a possibility that I had a learning difference. It was an English instructor that mentioned to me that I could be partially dyslexic. This astounded me. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to do a psychoeducational evaluation that had some interesting results. It turns out the I have a significant weakness in retrieval fluency. Basically, it measures the ability to learn, store and retrieve a series of associations as well as ability to fully retrieve information from stored knowledge. Ease of retrieval is very important in reading. It was also discovered that I have visual memory weakness, which affects my reading and spelling. I have a problem with swapping letters in words, or words themselves if they are similarly spelled (like properly for propriety). This explained a lot, and spelled out (pun intended) why I had so many problems with reading and test taking all throughout school.
It also explained why I was so attached to comic books. Reading straight text fatigued, frustrated and discouraged me. The sheer size of a book would intimidate me (and still does sometimes). But comic book are 22 pages long, give or take a few. There are words, but also pictures to help with the story comprehension. With comic books, I enjoyed reading, and still do. I can plow through several in one sitting, not even realizing I have read 100+ pages. Now, some of you will say “that’s cheating! It is mostly pictures!” Yes, a comic book would not be a comic book without the art. But why do we read? To gain information, to entertain, to explore our fantasies…all of these are valid reasons. And all of these can be found in comic books too. Now, this is not to say that a person should read comic books and nothing else. But they can be used as a tool, as a gateway to the world of reading. If people, especially kids, are excited about read, they will want to do more of it. And that is not a bad thing! It wasn’t until the last few years that I have pushed myself to read more regular books. Time was, I would start a book, get frustrated and never finish it. I still have difficulty reading, but I know that it is something I can overcome. I still stumble and get frustrated, but I am working through it. And I still read comic books.
I was ashamed of my reading difference. I thought I was dumb. I never talked about it until recent years. It was comic books that got me through, that kept me reading. And that is why they always have, and always will be, an important part of my life.