“Kids are our future.”
You’ve all heard this. Whether it’s spoken in response to climate change, supporting girls to begin working in STEM fields or politics, or comic books. While I have opinions on many things, I’m an expert on one thing.
From day one, I wanted my store to have a vast all ages section. And not for the reasons many stores do. I have no interest in putting a child in a corner so their parents could get rid of them for a while. I am not a babysitter. I wanted somewhere kids would willingly go, a space that was all their own. I’m still building on that, but the section has come a long way since Variant Edition opened.
I’ll admit, there have been some drawbacks. Money is tight, so I can only grow the section when I have some room in the budget, but I’ve been able to find some amazing books along the way. There was the time a customer (who has two sons) asked if there could be more books with young boys in them. I had been growing the section for a fictional Young Danica, finding more and more books I felt would have had a positive impact on me as a child. I had neglected to add books with positive male characters. He was also kind enough to remind me to focus on books with boys, sans “punching is the answer” (you would be amazed to discover the number of male-focused books that contain this). I have the weirdest blinders on when I’m ordering, and a lot of my customers who are parents have been helping me immensely.
I’ve been keeping my eye out for books about talking out problems, about girls going in STEM careers, LGBTQ+ kids being loved and accepted, princesses who run their lives, dinosaurs who are helpful friends, anything positive that will help build a kid up strong when the world comes knocking to crush them down. And yes, I look for books that I believe make me stronger, even now.
Business talk time. When I see other comic stores ignoring what is a huge and growing market, I get sad. Angry. Disappointed at their unwillingness to be a better business. Yes, that makes my job easier, but wouldn’t it be nice if all children could go to any comic store and find something magical, just for them? Brandon and I work hard to market comics to all age ranges. It would be so easy (and limiting) to market to people our age and up. People who have been reading comics for decades and are somehow more “justified” to be in a book store. I see a lot of customers stepping on their child’s wonder, possibly destroying a habit before it’s formed.
You can’t raise a reader if you begin by teaching restrictions (and no, I’m not talking about age restrictions – I always read above my age group, but I realize there are limitations).
There is no such thing as a “boy comic” or a “girl comic”. There are stories, and if your child is interested in it, and the content is age appropriate, give it a try. This could be the gateway to a future career. It could be the start of a passion. It could just be a wonderful phase of reading about dinosaurs. We all had those. We’re not all archeologists, but wasn’t it nice to dream about digs in Egypt when we were 8?