Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Reaching Readers through Graphic Novels

My son took a while to warm up to reading. Up until last year, he was a decent reader--meaning, he read as asked, and enjoyed being read to, but had not yet discovered a great love of books. As soon as he discovered graphic novels, that all changed.

Now, he DEVOURS books. Sometimes, two books in a day! I actually caught him reading by flashlight (actually, it was a Darth Vader keychain light). I couldn't be happier, because he's in love. He's in love with books! And THAT is the very best thing in the world, for any child.

However, some people question what he's reading.

According to his teacher, "he also needs to read books that are 'just right' for his reading level."

According to a neighbor, after a while "he'll start reading real books."

Real books? Just right levels? Give me a break! Look, as a kid, I read books that my parents wouldn't have touched with a ten foot pole. Books like Vanity Fair, and Pride & Prejudice, and Wuthering Heights. I purposefully skipped books with pictures, because I wanted MORE WORDS.

But the thing is, so does my son.

He wants books that open him up to new worlds, and allow him to read at the pace he's comfortable comprehending. He wants to stimulate both sides of his mind at the same time. He wants to fill in the blanks between dialogue, and intuitively digest the narrative. He's not just reading graphic novels, he's reading BOOKS. Graphic novels offer the same benefits as regular books. They introduce readers to new vocabulary, the language of books, and information that teaches them about their world and sparks their imagination.

In fact, there are now a lot of books on the subject of graphic novels that advocate these ideas. Stephen Weiner reports that “researchers concluded that the average graphic novel introduced readers to twice as many words as the average children’s book” and Francisca Goldsmith points out that “the kind of abstraction that competent and comfortable text reading requires is also demanded by the graphic novel.”

So there you have it. Graphic novels are books, too. They're just different.

Fiction and non-fiction graphic novels can bring another perspective to reading, perhaps one that your child will appreciate as much as mine. I leave you with some of our favorite graphic novels from the past year. If you have other reading suggestions, please add them to the comments below!

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic NovelA Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Hope Larson

A wonderful, modern interpretation of a timeless classic. The illustrations are crisp and bold, with simple blue tones added to black line art, which creates a wonderful, eerie tone that matches the story perfectly.

Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper (Amulet, #1)Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

A simple and classic story with an easy pace and gorgeous illustrations that propel you through the pages. This is the first in a series of five (soon to be SIX!) books that your child will devour in days.

Rosa Parks And The Montgomery Bus BoycottRosa Parks And The Montgomery Bus Boycott by Connie Colwell Miller

My son brought this home in February and has been referencing Rosa Parks ever since. The graphic novel format made the subject more accessible and immediate for him, and brings her incredibly brave story to life.

Happy reading!


  1. Great post, and I agree with you 100% that graphic novels can turn a reluctant reader into a voracious reader. I saw it with my middle child who didn't love sitting down with a book with words words words, but once he picked up the graphics he fell in love with reading. This is also precisely why the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has done so well.

    The Amulet series is my son's favorite. He wishes there were more books in that series! Some other favorites:
    King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table Graphic Edition
    Percy Jackson Graphic Edition
    Big Nate

  2. Great post! My son loves graphic novels too and I agree, the complexity of vocabulary in some of the graphic novels he reads goes way beyond what he is exposed to in "grade level" chapter books. He loved the Amulet series (reads it over and over) and is currently devouring the Bone series (Jeff Smith). He is also a big fan of the Star Wars Clone Wars and Bionicle books.

  3. I honestly would have a reluctant reader without graphic novels like Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield. I've just picked up Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale (The World War I tale) and so far I'm enjoying it. Lots and lots of historical information presented in a humorous way.

  4. The only graphic novel I've read is Raina Telgemeier's DRAMA (which I loved), and I'm completely fascinated by the fact that there are non-fiction graphic novels out there. I had no idea! Very cool.


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