Comic books + Children = Reading
As Silberkleit travels the globe with this message, one common question from educational systems keeps coming up: “how do we get our children interested in learning?” As Plato said, "do not train a child to learn by force, but direct them to what harnesses their minds.” To kids, comic books are like irresistible, colorful bowls of candy. Alternately, the vibrant language of comics is one without boundaries. The graphics in the comic books Silberkleit promotes are academic tools which spark a love of reading in children—and when a child becomes proficient in reading, that child acquires knowledge, confidence and creativity.
Reading comics is nothing to brush off; they can be complex reads and timely academic resources. Combined with story, graphic art sparks and engages conversation, critical thinking, word decoding and problem solving. At a time when educators strive to develop young minds, comic books come ready with accessible, complex stories—a superior tool for teaching our future supermen and superwomen.
As comic books are now widely recognized at all levels of education, Silberkleit encourages this creative literacy to be the platform to introduce various topics and other forms of literature. For example, presenting Shakespeare in a graphic format will only inspire one to seek further literary materials. Every child is capable of becoming a good reader, but we need the tools to discover what each individual child needs. With these tools, children will discover the pure joy and entertainment inherent in the act of reading.
Bullying; imagine someone repeatedly telling you what you can and can't do. In this encouraging talk geared towards students, Silberkleit fosters change by inspiring kids to eliminate this unacceptable social behavior. She highlights getting out of the noise of others and no longer being afraid to allow your spirit to carve a healthy path that highlights who you are and where you want to go. Throughout her travels, she teaches youth that they are a caring generation, part of a movement with knowledge of appropriate behavior and the power to be kind to one another. Children need to hear this message again and again; Silberkleit challenges them to increase acts of kindness and to stand up for fellow classmates and friends.
Rise Above, the comic book that accompanies this presentation, is a story laid out in rich graphics that demonstrate isolation, exclusion, emptiness, loneliness and loss of dignity—the actual damage that occurs when bullying takes place. Silberkleit believes that graphic literacy: strongly captures attention and promotes conversation on compassion to humans and animals; that graphics promote one to harness information and make connections with the world around them, thereby learning more about life; and how the concept of “it’s not my responsibility,” is diminished by sparking, internal self values to drive youth to be the society whose voice will accept responsibility.
The visual experience presented in Rise Above encourages critical thinking and what to do if bullied. This comic calls upon the responsibility of bystanders to challenge this unacceptable behavior and depicts how kids have the power to create change. In turn, this positive change promotes peace, tolerance, respect and an understanding that we all have the right to be an individual.
Stepping out of the Classroom and Tumbling into the Boardroom
Six years ago, Silberkleit’s husband passed away—as did his long-time partner—within seven months of one another. Together, they oversaw the operations of the iconic comic book company Archie Comics. With no succession plan in place, Archie Comics was left rudderless. At the time, Silberkleit was an elementary art school teacher, and had been for 25 years. Her desire to popularize the iconic brand to a third generation drove her, even though she had no business experience or formal business training. Without a mentor or plan, Silberkleit boldly stepped out of the classroom and into the boardroom.
Would she have made such a decision today? Taking calculated risks can only bring you further in life—every CEO comes with different background, and Silberkleit’s background is education, the perfect foundation and a valuable asset to lead Archie Comics into the 21st Century. Only five years ago, Silberkleit would state, “I am learning to be a business woman;” that past quote not only has found comical resonance, but landed her on the stage which she now sees as her home.
Her serious side echoes: “if you never think to question if you can do something, but only question why you can't, this talk is for you. Silberkleit still keeps her old teaching shoes close to her, for a reminder of who she is, was and has become. After all, those shoes helped place her on the entrepreneurial track. In the beginning, she branded herself by always adorning a certain color and acquired go-to inspirational quotes and even a trademark scent. She enjoys sharing her methods and styles, and inspires audiences to build their own castles from the grains she passes on. What Silberkleit has learned will never be found in any Wharton or Harvard business text, which is why this presentation is so engaging for audiences looking for inspiration in any walk of life.