While comic books and graphic novels have increased in popularity among children of all ages in the last few years, there are still some parents and educators that dismiss the medium as trivial or "not a real book" or "junk." We live in a visual society. It only makes sense that children are drawn to visual media.
Here are some things you might not know about comic books and graphic novels and how they can turn your child into a "super" reader:
1. Not all comics are about superheroes, and graphic novels do not always include "graphic" storylines. Did you know that there's a Pride and Prejudice graphic novel? Or that popular Shakespearean plays have been adapted into graphic novels? Did you know that the graphic novel American Born Chinese won the American Library Association's Printz Award in 2007? Face it, comics and graphic novels are on their way to becoming mainstream!
2. Some teachers and librarians on the 2014 New York Comic Con panel "Super Girls: Using Comics to Engage Female Students in the High School Classroom" listed these as some of the benefits and skills strengthened by graphic novels: motivating reluctant readers, inference, memory, sequencing, understanding succinct language, and reading comprehension.
3. Do you have a kid that skims the page or speed reads? When reading comics, children slow down and look at the images and text to fully ingest what's happening in the plot.
4. Graphic novels are bringing art education (which is often an endangered program in schools) into the classroom.
5. Graphic novels can be paired with traditional classics. One high school teacher on the "Super Girls" panel said that he's found success in pairing a canonical text like The Scarlet Letter with a graphic novel like Smile. Both titles are centered on female protagonists feeling alienated, which a lot of tween and teen girls can relate to.
6. Speaking of girls, comics aren't just for boys. Everybody enjoys a good story. And there are plenty of great graphic novels available for kids of all ages. You can check out some titles listed here or ask your local librarian for suggestions.
7. Teachers and librarians on the "Why Should I Let My Child Read Comics?" panel agreed that graphic novels are great for kids with learning disabilities. Children with autism can learn a lot about identifying emotions through the images in a graphic novel. Additionally, for children with dyslexia, while it might be very frustrating for them to finish a page of a traditional book, they often feel a sense of accomplishment when they complete a page in a comic book. Accomplishment is important. It's a huge self-esteem booster and leads to kids naturally wanting to read more.
8. However, when kids have lower self-esteem because they aren't strong readers that can discourage them from wanting to read. But graphic novels are a great way to promote literacy. Teachers and librarians do not want to give ESL students picture books. Kids would reject that and deem it embarrassing. However, a comic book at a lower reading level might give kids the reading confidence they need while boosting reading and language skills.
9. Reading comic books is a great way to share the joy of reading with your child. If you grew up reading Archie or Spider-Man comics, you can share that with your reader now. It's a great way to strengthen your bond. Plus, kids look up to their parents and want to share and discuss those favorite comics or moments or scenes with you. It's a no brainer!
10. Do you remember those wordless picture books that your toddler might have chewed on? Well, there are also wordless comic books. These offer a plethora of learning benefits – critical thinking, sequencing, imagination, storytelling, and creativity. Just think, every time that your child reads the book, it will be completely unique. Although the book is filled with pictures, it's a blank slate just waiting for your child's imagination to take shape.
Remember, there are a ton of great books and a ton of not-so-great books. The same is true of graphic novels and comics. Do your homework before choosing graphic novels for kids. Go to the experts if you need advice -- teachers and librarians are there to help!
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