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Can Comic Books Help Spread Public Safety Messages?

May 8, 2014
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Can Comic Books Help Spread Public Safety Messages?
Comic books can be more than playthings, some want to use them to educate youth. JD Hancock
Screengrab from Storynamics.com
Storynamics comics books tackle topics like diabetes and West Nile for the less-than-literate.

It’s a paradox of public safely: often those most in need of learning about health and safety risks and solutions are the most difficult to reach. They may not even be able to read.

The answer may be pictures — they’re worth 1,000 words, after all. Specifically, comic books, with easily understood drawings and messages that appeal across generations.

Enter Miguel Lopez and his wife, Helen Anaya, of Chandler, Ariz. Lopez used to work for a bank, and he remembered counterparts in Mexico using comic books to teach customers about saving and investing. The comics reached those who couldn’t read well.

Lopez and Anaya thought, why not bring this idea to the U.S.?

And so a genre that typically entertains kids and collectors may now reach a whole new audience — with some of the most important lessons of their lives.

The couple launched Storynamics in 2006, and they’ve hooked up with governments, schools, and other organizations to produce comic books about serious topics: hand washing, the West Nile Virus, water safety, diabetes, even how to deal with bat bites. The comics are printed in Spanish and English, with pictures to help reach those who struggle to read.

“One of the… significant challenges we are trying to address with the stories is literacy about health issues,” Lopez told Aaron Rop of AZCentral. “When you are not comfortable reading, you miss out on many things and many of those things are important to your health.”

Storynamics has produced and distributed over 240,000 comic books in 16 states. The comic book approach appeals to many local governments, because they can provide them to families via their children. Their appeal to kids is universal.

Among the project’s smart moves: the kids get the books in school, then bring them home and beg their parents to read. Few parents can resist their kid coming home excited about a gift from school, begging for Mom or Dad to tell a story.

“They go to their parents and they say, ‘Dad can you read this for me? Look at what they gave me at school’,” Lopez told Rop.

With the help of Storynamics comic books, soon it could be the kids helping their parents to eat right, exercise and get to bed early.

MORE: This Special Comic Book Makes Autistic Kids Feel Like Superheroes

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