(When Spider-Man isn’t fighting crime, he enjoys watching basketball with his family.)

My second-born son, Ben, loves superheroes (especially Spiderman.)  I tell people that shortly after birth, he crawled off, found a Spiderman costume, and has taken it off only for the occasional bath.  Batman, Superman, X-Men, Transformers, The Hulk… I can tell you more than you ever wanted to know about any of them.  It is probable that your school-age boy loves superheroes too. 

 
Why the Obsession with Superheroes?
Boys, I have noticed, are different than girls.  Boys are bundles of kinetic energy.  Thanks to that wonderful thing called testosterone, boys are naturally the more aggressive sex.  So what could be more appealing to a boy than pretending to be a superhero who engages in battle EVERY DAY? A superhero is someone who takes kinetic energy to a whole other level with their super-human abilities like flying or having incredible strength.  These abilities are every boy’s dream.
 
Channel Boys’ Love of Superheroes into a Love of Reading 
Instead of sitting in front of the television watching superhero cartoons, I believe it is perfectly appropriate to encourage our kids to read comic books. So long as the comics are previewed for content deemed inappropriate, reading comic books is a perfectly acceptable form of reading!  Novels are not “better” than comic books, they’re just different.  
 
Younger boys can enjoy reading about superheroes as well.  My six-year old received a couple of DK Transformers books from Santa in his stocking this year. Designed for beginner readers, the books contain mostly sight words mixed in with some Transformer names I can’t even pronounce.  Caleb slowly and surely learned each name and now reads the books to his fascinated brother.
 
Superhero Discussion Topics
Did you realize that the first pieces of literature recorded on  paper were about superheroes?  Think Homer’s The Odyssey, with its supernatural villains and intense action sequences.  The first English poem recorded is Beowulf, the story of a man with mystical strength who fought off two different monsters and a dragon!  When I taught Beowulf to a group of apathetic twelfth graders, I introduced the poem by asking them who they thought the most awesome superhero of all time was.  As we read Beowulf, we listed how the first recorded superheroes were similar to and different from modern-day superheroes.  In truth, comic book characters such as Superman and Batman are fodder for all kinds of discussion:
 
  • You could talk with your child about ethical dilemmas the superhero faces.
  • You could talk to your child about the nature of good and evil.
  • You could talk to your child about literary devices like symbolism (why did Batman choose to dress like a bat?) and allegory (is Venom Spiderman’s evil twin?)
  • You could encourage your child to create his own superhero and write his own adventure stories.
 
If you are willing to embrace your child’s passion for superheroes, you can introduce him to a world of wonder where he can learn valuable lessons about what constitutes a great story, how that story can have multiple layers and themes, and most importantly, how fun reading can be.

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