Aiden Jackson, 10, didn't like to read, but he loved to draw. He drew cartoon characters and comics. He enjoyed cutting out paper figures, both in school and at home.
Even though he disliked reading, Aiden would listen to his father (Poppy”), Sylvester Taylor of Palestine, read to him.
For Aiden, letters appeared scrambled. Reading was all work and no fun. School diagnostic tests determined he had dyslexia, said April Jackson, Aiden's mom.
One day, though, Aiden's dad took him to see a movie that changed his life – Captain Underpants. Aiden loved the movie. When he saw a Captain Underpants book at Wal-Mart, he felt an embryonic interest in reading.
His mom bought the book; a light came on.
“That's when I started to like to read,” Aiden said. When my mom buys the book, I feel really proud and happy.”
Aiden's interest in Dav Pilkey's books put him in a world he loves to inhabit. So when he's not reading the books, he often replicates the drawings and illustrations in them, honing his art skills as well.
Now, Aiden's Poppy and grandma buy him Captain Underpants books and DogMan books – any graphic novel that Dav Pilkey writes.
For the uninitiated, Dav Pilkey is a popular and award-winning writer and illustrator of children's books, including the Captain Underpants and Dumb Bunnies series.
Captain Underpants is one of the zaniest superheroes in the pantheon of elementary school literature. Even reluctant readers such as Aiden get hooked. And Dog Man is equally out there – a part-dog, part-man crimefighter, created after a police officer and his dog are seriously injured and surgery creates a hybrid that saves them both.
Aiden's mom, April Jackson, realizes how critical his interest in reading Pilkey's books is to his academic growth: His ability to learn other subjects depends on his reading skills.
“Once he started reading these books, his passion for reading has grown so much,” April Jackson said.
Aiden also draws his own superhero with superpowers, whom he calls Catman.
Aiden plans to illustrate his own book. He wants to collaborate with someone who will write the text. He also wants to meet Dav Pilkey.
“I wish I could be like him one day,” Aiden said.