116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Comic book owners believes reading is fundamental and should be fun
Mike Tickal promotes reading by handing out hundreds of free comic books to kids each year
Mar. 1, 2023 6:30 am, Updated: Mar. 1, 2023 12:03 pm
Mike Tickal, owner of Oak Leaf Comics & Collectibles in Mason City, believes reading is fundamental, and he makes it a priority to get kids reading every day.
Since founding Oak Leaf with his father in 1977, Tickal has gone a long way to promote reading at events in Mason City and the surrounding area. While he can’t recall the first reading promotion he ever led, he’s certain it was in the mid-1980s. Since then, his efforts to get kids interested in print have only grown.
Clear Lake residents might recognize Tickal from his generous distribution of free comic books at Thursdays on Main. “As I’m walking down the street, I hand out comic books to a lot of kids we meet there,” Tickal said. He started a punch card system with the Mason City Public Library, where kids who read 10 books can get a free comic book from his store. He also runs a booth during Mason City’s National Night Out, an event intended to help law enforcement and fire fighters build and strengthen relationships with the public.
Whenever the North Iowa Youth Center in Mason City holds an Inflatable Fun Day, Tickal is there with a table of free comic books for the kids. The center holds these events multiple times a year. At most recent Inflatable Fun Day on Feb. 11, Tickal handed out over 100 issues of classics like Archie Comics and Justice League. He also partnered with the youth center to start a reading shelf stocked with 200 books that kids can read there or take home. During the youth center’s evening open hours, kids are required to read for 20 minutes before they can play.
Tickal said his passion for inspiring kids to read started at home.
“My son had a slight reading problem,” he says. “I worked with him to do better at reading, and then started doing it for others also.” Overall, he says his concern is that “People do not read enough. I firmly believe readers not only make leaders, but readers make better thinkers.”
Probably the most extravagant gesture he makes towards youth literacy happens at his store happens in May.
“Every spring, the first Saturday in May, there’s a free national event called Free Comic Book Day,” said Tickal. This year it is May 6.
Free Comic Book Day was started in 2002 by Diamond Comics Distributors as an annual national incentive to invite a new audience to the world of comic books. Over 2,000 independent comic shops like Tickal’s participate in the promotion, and many comic creators join in on the fun by publishing special issues for free distribution on that day.
“My staff and I order dozens of titles and 2,000 to 3,000 issues every year,” Tickal said. “On Free Comic Book Day kids of all ages can come to the store and get comics for free.”
For Tickal, handing out free comic books is just the start of the festivities.
“My business has made a family fun event out of Free Comic Book Day. We take over a city block downtown, set up inflatables and games, invite cosplayers and TV movie cars, and have photo ops for a day of family fun,” he said.
With 45 years in the comic book business, and almost as long handing them out for free, Tickal has certainly made an impact on youth literacy in Northern Iowa.
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