As an educator, I’ve come across plenty of myths about reading that tend to be perpetuated relentlessly. One of them? That graphic novels don’t count as “real reading.” Some people believe that “real reading” only means award-winning novels or Shakespearean prose — not cartoon-filled pages! But really, those drawings can turn your child into a voracious reader and improve reading comprehension skills, no matter where they’re at on their reading journey right now.
Take, for instance, the conversation I had with a friend at elementary school pickup the other day. It went something like this:
Her: I just can't keep those silly. . . what are they called? — comic-type books? Graphic stories? I don't know — out of my kids' rooms.
Me: Wait. What do you mean?
Her: I mean, talk about junk! Why on earth should my kids spend time looking at those picture books when they should be reading?
Me: Are you talking about graphic novels? You don't want your kids to read them?
Her: Right. Exactly. Talk about filling their brains with junk.
Me: So are the kids reading other books? Do they do a lot of pleasure reading?
Her: No! That's the problem. They don't want to read. They just want to look at those comic-type books.
Me: Actually, those books count. Your kids are reading when they're reading a graphic novel. Really, trust me. Let 'em at those books.
Her: Amy, really? I thought you were an educator. Aren't you? I mean — you have to agree that these kids are wasting their time with these graphic novels, right?
Me: No, they're still reading. Your kids are reading. All kinds of reading counts, even graphic novels. I mean, unless you have an issue with the content of the books specifically, then I'd not only let them read these types of texts, I'd encourage it!
We chatted a bit longer, but as I walked away from the school building with my kids, I wondered how many other parents might view graphic novels the same way — as a "waste of time" and "not really reading."
But here are three reasons to give your kids graphic novels — especially if they ask for them:
1. Graphic novels are full of text. Sure, they have drawings, illustrations, and sometimes photos, but they also have text that readers must actually decode, analyze, and comprehend.
2. Graphic novels are engaging. Often, especially for our struggling or emerging readers, graphic novels add that extra support that kids need to help them through a text. The illustrations keep readers' minds working, and the combination of text and pictures gets kids through stories that they may otherwise not completely understand. (See how the Dog Man graphic novels helped one mom’s kids practice reading, writing, and drawing!)
3. Graphic novels are rich. Just like traditional novels, graphic novels have exciting and complex plots, characters, and conflicts. The plots have twists and turns. Characters are developed and dynamic. Conflicts are presented, unwound, and resolved in the same ways that they are in other texts. The only difference is that graphic novels have graphics to support the development.
Just like other genres, graphic novels are not created equally, and every parent must choose what is a good "fit" for their own children. But to get started, here are several selected by the Scholastic Parents staff for your elementary school-aged reader!