" Its a great way to promote mental and physical wellbeing, develop focus and concentration and encourage family time and exercise, something we all know is not the easiest thing to do."
Remember Marvel and the Beano? One North East grandad certainly does. They inspired him to create a new service helping tech-addicted families re-connect through shared reading.
John Porrett, from Newcastle, has launched a comic club for kids after finding that fun, colourful and humorous stories and activities were the perfect antidote to addictive tech for his own young grandchildren.
Remembering his own childhood love of comics like The Hotspur and The Wizard, John used fun, graphic and educational magazines to tempt his grandkids, Aaron aged eight and Layla aged six, away from their mobile phones and tablets.
His new venture is The Comic Club, aimed at seven to 11-year-olds – a subscription service which delivers high quality, hand-selected age-appropriate magazines and activity ideas direct to the door every month.
Said John: “Becoming a grandad was one of the happiest moments of my life. I wanted to do the things with them that I loved at their age. But it gets harder and harder to compete with things like games consoles and mobile phones. They’re so addictive.
“I heard the same from other parents. And as I read more about the potential effect of screens and social media on young people’s bodies, mental health and even learning, I wanted to find something that broke them away from all that, even for a short while. Tech has its place and can be educational, but it can be very solitary. Doing fun things with the people you love is much more rewarding than interacting with an algorithm.
“My grandchildren are the same as other children; they love techy gadgets, but they’ve been read to from an early age which has certainly helped with their overall development. The eye-catching design of comics presents all sorts of ideas and activities in a bitesize easy way. I always notice that when they have a fun and engaging comic in front of them, they start to interact and ask questions. Our aim is to get children and parents enjoying reading and to stimulate them to get outdoors with suggested games. It’s a great way to promote mental and physical wellbeing, develop focus and concentration and encourage family time and exercise, something we all know is not the easiest thing to do.”
As an avid reader since a very young age, John established his own distribution business Unique Magazines in 2009, and it now delivers a choice of more than 3,500 magazines to thousands of readers in 160 countries the world over from its base in Gateshead.
Convinced of the value of magazines in helping kids learn to read, he set about researching the idea with parents and teachers. The response was a resounding yes.
“We’ve had terrific feedback from local authorities, schools and help centres,” added John. “As well as making the packages available to parents and grandparents who want to encourage children to read, we also see a specially tailored version of the Comic Club as being a tool for schools and other outlets to help those children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds who perhaps don’t normally get a chance to read a comic or book. Schools see the Comic Club as a way of tempting children to read and become inquisitive.”
It’s acknowledged that children benefit from family engagement and spending time with a parent or grandparent. Sitting together and enjoying a comic will help the child with their reading, writing and creativity. It also helps them develop good social interaction skills, he said.
Chief Executive of North East Counselling Services Marjorie Hunter said: “I have known John for many years and I am a strong advocate of the Comic Club as a way of providing a family friendly route to learning. John is providing a tool that is challenging and stimulating to young children and we continue to offer our full support to a product that offers positive benefits to children’s learning. This is especially important in a time that some children are more interested in social media and gaming. A highly recommended publication.”
Parents or grandparents can subscribe to the Comic Club via its website (www.thecomicclub.co.uk).
For a recurring monthly payment of £9.95, which can be cancelled at any time, they’ll get a monthly delivery of two comics from a range including the likes of Horrible Histories, Eco Kids, Brilliant Brains, Whiz Pop Bang and National Geographic Kids, all of which feature stunning photography and thought-provoking articles. The package will also include an activity sheet with every delivery, which relates to the content of the magazines in that month’s delivery, and a journal.
The website is also a mine of fun and information for subscribers, including a Kids Zone which has loads of videos and fascinating articles, and a Parent Zone with useful articles on topics such as healthy eating and keeping active. Parents will particularly find the Ask the Teacher feature a valuable resource to ask questions related to education.