Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Graphic Novels: Why They're Not Junk

If you have been paying attention to the books that children are gravitating towards these days, you may have noticed that many of them are choosing what appear to be comic books. These books that are so popular now are called graphic novels. As Amy Mascott mentions in her blog, these books, just like your average novel, have defined characters and complex plots. Unlike your average novel, they are written in a comic book format with panels of pictures and with text mostly in speech or thought bubbles. You may think that these books are less worthy to be read than novels that are purely in text, but I assure you that graphic novels are a key to reading success for many students.
When trying to get a reluctant reader to read, you may not have much luck with a book full of words, but once you show them a book with illustrations and words they are much more intrigued. There are numerous students that would not read if it were not for graphic novels. These books are thick and have an interest level appropriate to the child so that they are not embarrassed to be caught reading it like they might a picture book, but with the help of the illustrations, students can comprehend what is happening in the book and feel successful at reading. Once students have built confidence through reading graphic novels, they often turn to regular novels with similar plots. This is why graphic novels based on the classics or on popular chapter books are wonderful. A student who reads The Lightning Thief graphic novel may be so intrigued that they then try the original version of this book. For these reasons, I often encourage my struggling readers to try graphic novels.
"But my student is not a struggling reader and they are still reading this junk!" I assure you these books are not junk. There is quite a bit of value to reading graphic novels. Many graphic novels use rich, challenging vocabulary words, but students are able to comprehend what is going on because they have the assistance of the rich, beautiful artwork. Thus through reading graphic novels, students are able to learn new vocabulary words and improve their reading fluency. There are also graphic novels that are based on classic literature. I love these books because they make complex texts accessible to all students. Even a student who is an avid reader can struggle with the vocabulary and text structure of a classic novel, but through reading the graphic novel version they are able to comprehend the text and access the important lessons embedded in the story. The same goes for graphic nonfiction. There are a number of nonfiction books that have come out in the last few years in graphic novel form. These are wonderful for learning history and as biographies since you are able to get a real picture of what happened that you would not be able to get from a traditional nonfiction book. Finally, reading graphic novels requires another whole set of skills that a novel does not require. Students have to track the story through cells, learn to read both pictures and words together, and learn to slow down and really breathe in the whole story. All of these are reasons why I have no problem with my students reading graphic novels and even encourage them to be read.
How do you feel about graphic novels? Why? If you like them, what are some of your favorites?

Please help us grow our graphic novel collection at Pinewood by supporting our Donors Choose project.

Further Reading:
Anderson, M. (2016). 10 reasons to let your kids read graphic novels. Retrieved from
Filucci, S. (2016). How comics helped my kid love reading. Retrieved from
Jones, E. (2014.) 5 great reasons to read graphic novels. Retrieved from
Mascott, A. (2017). 3 reasons graphic novels can be great for young readers. Retrieved from