Last week I wrote about age appropriate comics and the role that retailers have in stocking this material. That was in response to retailer comments about the lack of quality all ages reading material available and the role of comic retailers in sustaining their own markets with the cultivation of new, young customers.
One issue that shouldn’t be ignored, and provides retailers an excellent opportunity to grow their young readers market, is the level of attention that teachers, as well as school and public libraries, have brought to the role comics play in reaching out to reluctant readers.
If retailers want to turn their back on comics for kids, or complain about the lack of all ages superhero comic content, they are missing out on a revitalized attitude towards the role that comics play in reading development and comics ability to engage these reluctant readers.
The Toronto District School Board is working with Eric Walters, a bestselling children’s author, as well as former Toronto Raptor Jerome ‘Junk Yard Dog’ Williams and his brother, Johnnie Williams, as a means to reach out and encourage young boys to read.
With the trio’s latest book, Home Team, the three men will launch their largest collaboration ever when thousands of Toronto Grade 3 and Grade 6 boys act as their story editors. The plot of the book revolves around the efforts of two students who try to convince the Toronto Raptors basketball team to visit their school. It should be published in May, 2010 and each participating student will receive a copy.
Behind this project is new Education Director of the TDSB, Chris Spence, who started in February 2009, but began laying out his new initiatives in September 2009. A former running back with the B.C. Lions, Spence is tasked with reversing the high drop-out rates amongst Toronto’s high-risk groups while reversing disengagement and promoting academic achievement.
Spence has made his way through the ranks holding positions of race relations co-ordinator, elementary teacher, vice-principal, principal, superintendent and Director of the Hamilton school board, Spence is focused on community development and promoting equity with a focus on initiatives for marginalized youths. He is the author of Skin I’m in: Racism, Sports and Education (Fernwood Publishing Company, 2000) and On Time! On Task! On a Mission! (Fernwood Publishing Company, 2002).
Jerome JYD Williams currently works as the Toronto Raptors community representative. He has developed the youth outreach program, JYD P.R.O.J.E.C.T. Williams structured the community-based initiative to combine community service projects with celebrity appeal. From building renovations, park clean-ups, and community programs, the P.R.O.J.E.C.T uses a diverse board including local government, businesses and community leaders that initiate cooperative community efforts. Williams’ goal with the project is to utilize professional athlete’s influence to motivate youth to excel academically. Williams has also participated in the NBA’s “Basketball Without Borders” program, in efforts to teach the game and bring resources to underdeveloped nations around the world.