Speaking to the World
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Co-CEO, Archie Comic Publications
Nancy Silberkleit is co-CEO of Archie Comic Publications, one of the most successful, longest-running brands in the history of the comic industry. Her vision is that the comic book, as a graphic novel, is a valuable tool for developing literacy among first-time readers and instilling a love of reading in everyone. As a former public art school teacher, Silberkleit knows the importance of literacy; her personal motto is “Children + Comic Books = Reading, Knowledge, Confidence and Creativity.” She is the wife of the late Michael Silberkleit, who was the son of Archie Comics founder Louis Silberkleit, who founded Archie Comics in 1942 with his partner John L. Goldwater. Read More >
Silberkleit fervently believes that comic books can be used to engage a variety of learners, while promoting literacy and a love of reading—that the graphic comic book format enriches and develops the creative mind. As a former art teacher with 25 years of experience, she has often seen the power of comics in action as they encouraged literacy, storytelling and creativity in children. Additionally, she understands that comics teach children how to explore their artistic abilities through illustration, and that this is a natural progression—a bridge to reading from the picture books of their younger years. She speaks on this subject often, as well as on how she transitioned from the classroom to the boardroom, and on how youth can subvert bullying, a topic that plagues youth in epic proportions.
She created the popular Comic Book Fairs across North America as events to ignite interest in reading, as well as fund-raising initiatives for schools. Silberkleit sees comics as a powerful tool that stimulates and builds today’s children into tomorrow’s strong creative thinkers—ones that are prepared to approach complex situations. To this end, Silberkleit established the Rise Above Social Issues Foundation, Inc., a non-profit that addresses challenging social issues through comic books, such as childhood obesity and other chronic medical conditions, as well as bullying, discrimination and environmental concerns. She believes that by encouraging literacy, self-confidence and knowledge through age-accessible, non-threatening reading materials, we can stimulate creativity and tolerance in youth, and foster them to be a positive influence on peers. In the future, Silberkleit hopes to work with educators to establish after-school tutoring programs, which would include the development of lesson plans and more comic book fairs to engage children in literacy.
While Silberkleit is widely recognized as a unique voice in promoting literacy, her transition from educator to business leader also has people talking. She is an avid, sought-after speaker who has the rare ability to keep huge audiences enthralled. She has spoken at prestigious events around the world, such as the INK conference in association with TED. Her energetic style and warm, open and inspiring stories leave others with a desire to encourage positive change in themselves and in children. Read Less ^
Comic Books can be an Academic Resource
TEDx: How Comic Books Can Help Teach Lessons on Bullying
Utilizing Graphics to Get Messages Across
Stories change hearts, stories change minds, stories provide hope. Comic books are a powerful platform to communicate delicate issues. So next time you see a superhero movie, remember that comics can have a greater impact than getting the FICTIONAL bad guy. Let it be the approach in striking a conversation on serious issues, it just may be what it will take in improving one's life or bigger than that maybe, saving a life.
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. Read More >
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. Read Less ^
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. Read More >
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. Read Less ^
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. Read More >
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. Read Less ^
"Nancy spoke to all of our students in grades 4-7 (our 8th graders were away that day). She spoke for about 45 minutes then answered questions. She spoke about the writing process, "graphic literacy" and ultimately, bullying. At lunch, she spoke with a small group of teachers about the same thing and how she developed a love for reading later in life than many; it was a much more intimate discussion. She came back to our school that evening to meet with interested parents. That discussion was mostly about children and bullying. Again, she entertained questions. Thank you!"
"I want to thank you for your recent visit. It was a pleasure to see how engaging you were with the students as you discussed your experiences as a new entrepreneur and CEO. Your outstanding ability to connect with our students was highlighted by your sharing the changes you experienced becoming an entrepreneur. You thoughtfully provided a PowerPoint presentation, props that depicted Archie Comics and comic books, and public relations materials that included your scented business cards, which helped bring the subject matter to life for the students. You also shared valuable marketing plus the importance of trademarking. The students took away valuable life lessons from your presentation. Thank you again for sharing your time and talent with our students, teachers and volunteers."
"Thank you for coming to Lincoln High School to speak with myself and the Academy of Finance student body. In life we all need to see brave people in action. You are definitely a brave person. Too many of us—myself included—don’t give ourselves the chance to do something we want to but are too scared to do. I would like to thank you for overcoming your fear and inspiring us to do the same and pursue what we want."
"I am pleased to recognize your valuable contribution to the Women of Influence series hosted by the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey. You were part of a program that showcases worthy examples for others to emulate and the event’s attendees have been fortunate to learn from your professional experience. That you were selected to participate in this program is a testament to your level of accomplishment and expertise. Your distinction in your field serves as an example for many other residents in our state. Congratulations and thank you for being a part of this enriching program that has been a valuable educational tool for so many."
"Nancy Silberkleit is an outstanding presenter. Her history as a teacher, her humor and her devotion to education come through loud and clear. She kept an audience of several hundred people enthralled and, when she finished, people wanted more, which is always the mark of an effective and charismatic speaker."
"What a treat to have Nancy Silberkleit keynote at the Region One Education Service Center Conference. Nancy leaves her audience with an empowered message. She is a very energetic person who presents an innovative way to promote literacy and social issues. I highly recommend you invite her to your school. We look forward to continued work with Nancy."
"I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to hear your presentation at our ICC Court-Involved Youth Work Group meeting. Needless to say, your story was very inspiring. After about ten minutes, I found I could probably listen to you for hours. You captured me! I really liked how you incorporated your own herstory moments as well as spoke about the pressing issues that face young people (e.g., LGBTQ youth that are at risk for bullying). I look forward to working with you in the future!"
"Thank you very much for addressing our students at School One as part of our Respect Month. Your presentation was thorough, engaging and fun for all who attended. Additionally, the gift of an individual comic book for each of the students was a welcome surprise. After speaking with the students and teachers, we especially appreciated the way you afforded as many students as possible to come up and ask their questions. The way in which you made them feel appreciated and valued was truly admirable. Your self-disclosure helped us identify with you and the topics of tolerance and respect in many ways. We want to thank you for that."
"We feel honored to have had you share your knowledge and passion with our children. They have been buzzing around school since, energized by just how much they enjoyed the Young Writers' Workshop. Parents and school administrators keep saying how lucky we were to have you in attendance!"
"Everyone found you inspirational, humorous, and appreciated your message. You gave each and every woman in the audience the fortitude to stand tall when facing any challenge. You entered a male dominated industry with no female role models and no business background. Not only are you successful – you have grown the Archie Comic model to be more impactful in bringing messages about obesity, violence and bullying into classrooms. Thank you for your message, your spirit and your willingness to speak with so many people about their own memories of Archie, Veronica and Betty."
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