I enjoy all of the comics. American comics, newspaper comics, webcomics, and of course manga. I’m currently in the process of reading the Fullmetal Alchemist and Death Note manga series as well as a few others. No spoilers in the comments, please!
As a dad with four kids, I do want to be able to introduce my children to my love of manga as well. Recently, my oldest (7-year-old son) bought his first manga volume. He wanted to go to a local comic book store with me and while there, he picked out the first volume of the Pokémon Adventures manga. His eyes lit up as they pulled it from the shelf for him. He read it that afternoon.
Between that and my children’s excitement about Free Comic Book Day, I know manga can be a fun hobby to share with my children. Yet, much like anime (see my Introducing Your Children to Anime article), the question always comes up – how do I introduce my kids to manga? Let me go through how I do it and offer some suggestions. Please remember, as always, knowing your own children matters the most. You know them best, so my ideas are just that – mine. Your mileage may vary with your own children.
Consider Their Reading Level
This is of utmost important to consider before introducing your children to anything written. Can they read? How well can they read? Are they beginning readers or more advanced? The answers to these questions may direct every other decision you make at this point of manga introduction. If they cannot read, you will be reading it all to them. Be prepared and know what that means.
Have you ever tried reading any comic-style story to a young child? I have. My 5-year-old daughter loves Sonic the Hedgehog comics and has a few she loves to look at and re-read with me. However, she can only read her sight words so far. This means I’m reading it all to her and trying to help her pick up on the words. So, I need to point at each page to ensure my daughter can follow along with the speech bubbles, sound effects, etc. What happens is some of the artwork is blocked, which creates more challenges for the child as they attempt to follow along. Consider manga with larger pictures to prevent you from obscuring too much as you read along.
If your children are capable of reading, consider their reading level. Beginning readers will have a harder time with more complex manga. Also, if they are just learning to read (kindergarten, first grade) books written to be read in reverse from what they are learning in school may make things more complicated. Consider trying manga like Chi’s Sweet Home. The English translation is entirely inverted so it reads left to right instead of right to left, making it easier to follow for young readers. It also is not very dialogue heavy and the pictures make following along with the plot easier for early readers.
Consider Their Likes, Always
Yes, I know, I’m a broken record. Yet, when considering how to introduce your children to manga, make sure you consider what they like too! Are they already watching an anime? Check to see if there is a manga series it is based on which is at a level your children can read. Shonen Ashibe GO! GO! Goma-chan is an ongoing children’s anime series that also has an ongoing associated manga. So, if they already are enjoying the anime, they can see the same characters getting into similar situations on the written page.
The manga is also not very dialogue heavy, much like Chi’s Sweet Home, so beginning readers can follow along with the manga. In addition to that, the original manga series entitled Shounen Ashibe was published from 1988 to 1994. This provides eight additional volumes of silly antics with everyone’s favorite elementary school child, Ashibe, and his pet sea lion Goma!
Does your child like Pokémon? There is a vast array of Pokémon manga, like what my oldest recently stepped into. The plot follows more closely to the games and delves into some interesting side characters not developed in the current anime series. The best part? There is 20 years’ worth of manga already created, which provides your children a wealth of things to read! There are 52 volumes of the main Pokémon Adventures series translated into English. In addition to that, there are side volumes such as Pokémon Diamond and Pearl or Black and White, which have at least eight volumes worth of manga to read each! This series alone can provide years’ worth of reading for your children!
Consider Appropriateness of Content
Just like with any form of media, manga may have content you may find inappropriate for your children. What that line is will be different for everyone. I have very young children, but you may have tweens, teenagers, or merely infants who like pointing at things. For me, that line may be different than for you. Make sure you take it into account, though, when helping select manga for your children.
For example, I love Tonari no Seki-kun, both the anime and the manga. My local library network has the manga. When I saw it on the shelf in the children’s manga section (more on that later), I was psyched. I picked up volume one and read it myself. I wanted to see for myself if it was something my kids would enjoy. Also, I wanted to read it because I love the series.
While I think my children may have enjoyed the silly antics, however, early in the manga I noticed cursing which was not present in the anime. As my children are young, I do not want to actively expose them to cursing. My wife and I do not curse around our children, it is a parenting decision we made together. If my kids were tweens or early teens, this may not be as big of an issue. Yet, at their ages, I would not find this appropriate for my children.
Check Your Local Library
Here is a question to ask yourself – have you checked out the selection of manga at your local library? If not, the selection may surprise you. I live in Maryland and the Baltimore County Public Library network has a very nice assortment of manga (for those who live near me, you can check it out here). You can search online for the manga you want to read and have it ready to go at your local library or on your favorite eReader device, depending on availability. This is a cheap, legal option for reading manga that I thoroughly recommend. With that in mind, your library will have various resources for your youth manga readers. First and foremost, you have librarians who are always ready to help out when you ask. Do not hesitate to ask your library staff for recommendations!
You also have the natural division of books which are pre-sorted by what the library staff considers to be appropriate. For example, Ghost in the Shell manga is not going to be sitting in the children’s section. However, going through the Children’s Section at our local library is how my older children discovered the fun and full-color manga Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll created by Sanrio, a series about a flying puppy named Cinnamoroll. Our library network also specifically keeps separate manga appropriate for teen and tween readers (i.e. your shounen and shoujo manga). Again, this makes it easier to find things that are at your child’s reading level.
A library is also a place where you can meet other readers. Our local library has a manga and anime night specifically for teen readers which is a great way to interact and meet new friends. There are also those who will be reading in the library. Some may be friendly and able to help you pick out manga. Others…may not be. However, if you see me, feel free to ask me questions…so long as I’m not chasing one of my children!
The goal of introducing your children to manga is going to be two-fold. One is to introduce them to a world of stories that you already love. The other, though, is to encourage your child to read. I know that is part of why I do it. Encouraging my children to read is a big driver for me and helping them pick out stories that are fun and entertaining will continue to boost their excitement over reading. Manga offers a great opportunity to readers, with imaginative stories and fun characters. It may be challenging at times for younger readers, but if you help them and select stories they enjoy, you’ll find your children having a blast reading manga in no time.
I promised recommendations, so here are a few recommendations for various reading levels. As with all recommendations, know that your mileage may vary depending on what you find appropriate for your own children. Check your local library, Amazon, or Yatta-Tachi’s Ultimate List of Legal Manga Sites to read these series.
Beginning Readers (Pre-K through 1st Grade)
- Chi’s Sweet Home
- Happy Happy Clover
- Shonen Ashibe GO! GO! Goma-chan
- Shounen Ashibe
Chapter Book Level Readers (2nd Grade through 5th Grade)
- Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll
- Pokémon Adventures (Series, including Diamond and Pearl and Black and White)
- Swans in Space
Tween/Early Teen Readers (6th Grade through 8th Grade)
Teen Readers (9th Grade through 12 Grade)
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