Moving from Biggs Air Force Base, El Paso, Texas to Pease Air Force Base, Portsmouth, New Hampshire was one of the greatest adventures in the life of this military brat. I was in junior high school back then. During this time that I went through puberty, became interested in girls, and fell in love with reading.
My love for reading got a kick-start when I was a preschooler with my father and mother reading to me. I loved to sit in their lap as they read. Mother read me classic Bible stories. Dad read me Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Chip & Dale comic books. He let me hold one page of the comic while he held the other. The illustrations came to life with the characters running across the page before my eyes.
School teachers like my second-grade teacher Mrs. Davis, my third and fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Jensen and notably Mrs. Englebrock, my delightful fifth-grade teacher read to us entire books, one chapter at a time. Tornado Jones, Robinson Crusoe, and the Swiss Family Robinson captivated my young mind.
Arrival at Portsmouth Junior High School brought two dear women into my life, Mrs. Athens, and Dr. Pickett. They were my English literature teachers and had a Dartmouth and Radcliffe College education. They instilled a passion in me for reading. One way they captivated my attention was through the use of Classic Illustrated Comic Books.
Each student received the comic book. The intent of using the comic book was to keep us from being intimidated by a 300-page novel. The Classic Illustrated Comic was only forty-eight pages long. Instead of reading page after page of words, we had the mix of illustrations and words. We learned the main characters, the story theme, storyline and setting.
We developed an interest in the work. After reading the comic, we then would tackle the novel. Being familiar with the characters and story we were hungry to find out the entire story. Many times we read a chapter aloud in class followed by discussion. The teacher’s goal was to get us to enjoy reading and to be conversationally literate in classical literature.
This technique somehow got most of the boys in the class to read! Reading comics was considered cool. At home, we would read Spiderman, Superman, Sargent Rock, and Archie Comics. They were not allowed at school. At school, we added Ivanhoe, The Last of the Mohicans, A Tale of Two Cities, Les Misérables, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Pathfinder, The Invisible Man and other Classic Illustrated Comics to our read for pleasure list. The teachers allowed us to read these “real literature” comics in study hall, before class or at lunch.
Who would have thought a comic book could motivate a boy to read? Not me, but they did. Mrs. Athens and Dr. Pickett were sneaky in getting me and many others to love reading. Thank you, ladies. You were the best, and you made a lifelong impact in this military brat.
Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a writer of speculative fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and reviews books. He’s written for Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine, Thinking About Suicide.com, Author Culture, FrontRowLit.com, The Baseball History Podcast, Writing After Fifty, Sunday School Leadership, Church Leadership, Motivators For Sunday School Workers, The Deacon, Preschool Leadership, Sunday School Leader, and The Baptist Program. For sixteen years, he wrote a weekly newspaper column. He has written five fiction and poetry books. All are available on Amazon.com. His blog “Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews” was named a 100 Best Blogs for History Buffs and has had over 750,000 visitors.