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Parent Guide to Book Genres: Graphic Novels

These hybrids combine old-fashioned storytelling with up-to-the-minute visuals. No wonder kids are hooked.

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Attention and Focus
Reading Comprehension

In a TV- and video game-filled world, today's children are increasingly drawn to the visual, and to tales filled with the zap-pow-bam excitement of superheroes, both real and fictional. Graphic novels don't all have superheroes, but those that do often tell a different side of the story. Regardless of the hero, the pictures draw children in, while the complex and unique stories keep them reading.

Even voracious readers of traditional novels enjoy taking a break from words, words, words to take in a more visual landscape of storytelling. Here's your guide to this hot genre.

Why They're Worthwhile
Graphic novels encourage reading for pleasure and are a superb way to get reluctant readers interested in books. If your child watches cartoons or loves superheroes, these books hold a natural appeal. At the same time, graphic novels introduce complex themes, plots, and structures, making them interesting for advanced readers as well. Finally, the graphical nature of the narratives helps introduce vocabulary through contextual clues and fosters independent reading and learning. 

These novels can also be a wonderful way to open discussion on difficult topics, without being heavy-handed or overly serious. Many touch on everyday issues such as friendship, difficulty in school, and not fitting in. To spark a revealing conversation, try asking your child questions about what he thinks the characters are feeling or thinking, or what he would do in a similar situation (and why).

It's terrific, too, to talk about the artwork itself and how it contributes to the stories and characters, and discover what styles of art your child is drawn to. You can also find great opportunities to discuss words and vocabulary and how they're drawn, as many graphic novels use different fonts for different characters, emphasis, or situation. If your child has trouble following traditional novels, show him how the illustrations can guide him through the story by offering contextual clues.

Beyond the Books
To inspire your reader, try these activities:

  • Go to a comic book store or, even better, attend a comic convention, and talk with other people passionate about the form. At conventions, many authors and illustrators are available to answer questions, plus there's the fun of the costumed characters walking around among us mortal folk.
  • Have your child create a graphic novel of her own, using a computer graphics or drawing program or by hand. If she has trouble coming up with an original idea, have her imagine what happens after the final frame of her favorite title, or what might happen if two different characters from different books met.
  • Encourage him to take on the identity of his favorite character for a day, including clothes, mannerisms, and speech. This will push him to use his imagination as well as get a deeper understanding of the character . . . and have fun!


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