EDITOR’S NOTE: This post first appeared on the NYC Dads Group blog in 2012. It has been updated for 2023.
Several months ago, after countless hours of Dora the Explorer on Netflix, I turned on one of my favorite cartoons from my youth, Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. To my delight and surprise, it is now my daughter’s favorite show.
Recently, we went to a superhero-themed birthday party and she went as Firestar, her favorite from the show. Other kids were Spider-Man and Superman, but she was the only one dressed as an obscure character from a 30-year-old TV show. I think it’s pretty awesome that she is so into something I loved as a kid. Heck, she brought her Iceman figure to a Korean barbeque restaurant the other day.
And on the first Saturday of May, we will venture to a local comic book store to celebrate Free Comic Book Day.
Comic books can build a love of reading
As much as comic books are often derided, they can be a great tool for getting children reading. Younger kids will like the pictures and want you to read the stories, which encourages them to want to learn to read on their own. For kids who can read, especially reluctant readers, comic books are an accessible way to get into reading. I know many educators who use comics in the classroom as a way to get kids reading. And as a dad, I think it is a source of new stories to read. After all, how many times can you tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood?
Another thing that is great about comics is they appeal to a wide audience. Boys and girls, kids and adults can find something they love about comics. With character licensing being the way it is, children know who all the major superheroes are as the person from their friend’s backpack or T-shirt. So why not expose them to the source material and open a new world for them?
So what is Free Comic Book Day?
Free Comic Book Day is usually the first Saturday of May. Participating comic book specialty shops across North America and around the world give away certain comic books absolutely free to anyone who comes into their shops. Since the inception of the program in 2002, tens of millions of free comic books have been given away.
What is cool about Free Comic Book Day? It can help turn you on to something you have never read before and find a new favorite. You’ll be sure to find some with well-known superheroes, like the Avengers, but you’ll also discover many others. You’ll also be able to pick up more grown-up comics, including graphic novels. For example, I found a Valiant Comics sampler featuring X-O Manowar and a Buffy the Vampire meets The Guild crossover.
The first year I went with my child, the selection of free comics included very kid-friendly fare: Yo Gabba Gabba, Donald Duck, and The Smurfs. So there really is something for everyone!
The last time I went to Free Comic Book Day I ended up with a stack of freebies and I end up buying another stack for myself, which is good because it helped support an independent comic book store.
Find a participating store near you
Need help finding a comic book store near you? Check the store locator on The Free Comic Book Day website.