THE founders of an Oxford-based comic say publications like theirs can encourage thousands of youngsters to read.

The Phoenix, a traditional comic produced in Beaumont Street, has a growing weekly circulation of more than 3,000 copies across the UK, as well as subscribers abroad.

Managing director Caro Fickling says that despite the huge number of multi-media distractions available to its core readership of eight to 12-year-olds, the traditional cartoon story strip is just as appealing as it ever was.

And the effects can be highly beneficial when it comes to providing a gateway to reading.

Mrs Fickling said: “If a child reads on their own for fun they become more committed to reading in general and research shows they are happier and ultimately more successful.

“The secret is to take reading away from school and beyond parents reading to children and for youngsters to see it as a fundamental skill in life. Comics help raise reading levels and children who enjoy them are happier to read text books.”

The Phoenix was founded last year by Mrs Fickling’s publisher husband David and is a family business with the Ficklings’ sons Tom and Will heavily involved in its production.

The Phoenix follows The DFC, a previous comic run by Mr Fickling, but it folded after about 40 issues, despite support from local authors, including Philip Pullman.

Mrs Fickling added: “Children need reading choices and whether it is a football magazine or a comic, stories are very important because they are a way to explore and learn at the same time as having fun.

“Comics provide a pleasurable reading choice because they are fun and entertaining.”

The Phoenix is also distributed to book shops and schools in Oxfordshire, as well as further afield and gets positive feedback from parents and teachers.

One of its key selling points is that its readers can look forward to receiving a physical copy in the post every Friday.

Mrs Fickling said: “We have pictures sent to us by parents showing how their child has not moved for an hour and a half because they are reading it, despite the television being on.”

See Monday’s Mail for details on a competition to win a year’s subscription to The Phoenix.