When thinking of children learning to read, parents often imagine a kid curled up on the couch with a classic novel. But that’s not always how it works out. Some kids are drawn to books filled with images; the books might even have more pictures than words. If this sounds familiar, don’t fret. Graphic novels are a great way for kids to develop a love of literature.
“Lots of parents associate graphic novels with ‘comic books,’ and they think of them as inferior to ‘real’ books. However, the graphic novel is a respected genre of literature, containing some truly outstanding works of art. We can all think of trashy novels we'd rather our kids not read, but these don't lead us to discourage our kids from reading all novels. Instead, we direct our kids to the better novels, and we can do the same with graphic novels,” says Dr. Virginia Zimmerman, professor of English at Bucknell University.
Need more convincing? Here are 10 reasons to allow graphic novels into your home.
1. Pairing art with words is fun! It is possible your little one will be attracted to graphic novels without any prodding, and that is a great reason to let kids read them, because they want to read them on their own accord. There are plenty of books kids will read for school or research that they will not enjoy, why not let them sharpen their skills with books they choose on their own?
2. Learn about story elements. You don’t need to be reading a classic to learn about literary devices. The same elements are used in graphic novels, too. Both introduce young readers what is needed to move a narrative forward; characters, setting, conflict, and resolution.
3. Advance reading skills. “Graphic novels promote critical reading. When reading a graphic novel, children learn to navigate a printed page in multiple ways. For example, you cannot simply read from left to right. In order to grasp the story line, you have to follow and read the words as well as the pictures to understand,” says Jan Lacina, professor and associate dean of graduate studies in the College of Education at Texas Christian University.
4. Variety. It’s the spice of life, right? Think about all of the types of reading adults do throughout their day. Parents read reports for work, novels for pleasure, magazines for tips, and even take in stories on their phones. Sometimes variety in a reading diet helps to create a desire for more information. Allowing children to read graphic novels could lead to them naturally picking up a classic without adults even suggesting they do so.
5. Visual learning is part of life. We live in a visual culture, and because of this, it is common for parents to feel a child would benefit from a break in the imagery, a time to take in a story solely through words. While this is true for some kids, other children find the visual sequence of a graphic novel preferable because we live in a visual culture. The combination of words and pictures to complete a narrative is logical for them.
6. A great choice for reluctant readers. "Graphic novels motivate many children to read, and most importantly, these books include complex plots and well-developed characters. Graphic novels may appeal to those children who struggle to read traditional texts,” continues Lacina.
7. Reading a graphic novel could lead to creating a graphic novel. We are all drawn to what interests us. If your child prefers drawing to writing, the idea of writing a book may be daunting and abstract. But, if they are immersed in graphic novels, they may be attracted to storytelling and could find the combination of images and words a good fit for their own self expression.
8. Images can help with reading comprehension. Context clues are a natural way for readers of all ages to learn new words and concepts. For young readers, there is the benefit of visual support to words. So, even if a word is new to their vocabulary, they can deduce the meaning of a sentence by looking at the visuals provided.
9. The more children read, the more they learn. Everything we read helps all of us to become better readers. Sometimes reading contemporary works can mean we are reading classic works, they just might be in their infancy.
10. There are so many to choose from! As graphic novels have grown in popularity, there are more options for every age group and every interest. This means not only that there are more titles in general, but more top-notch books to choose from. “Many critics had Victoria Jamieson's Roller Girl on their lists of best books last year…Art Spiegelman's Maus is a classic. And Brian Selznick writes beautiful and innovative books that are hybrid novels and graphic novels. There are many other excellent graphic novels that kids should be encouraged to read,” continues Dr. Zimmerman.
What to read?
Ok, so you are ready to pick up some graphic novels for your kids. Which ones do you choose? Here are 10 title recommendations to get you started. If your child takes to one of the suggested titles, ask your local librarian or bookseller for more books with similar themes.
• Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
• Artsy-Fartsy by Karla Oceanak
• Cardboard by Doug TenNapel
• The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo by Drew Weing
• Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
• El Deafo by Cece Bell
• Earthling by Mark Fearing
• Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson
• Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke
• Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson