Why Your Kids Should Read Graphic Novels
Graphic novels are such a nostalgic piece of my upbringing. They always carried a wealth of detail through text and visuals while maintaining an engaging and thought-provoking narrative. I vividly remember the Bone Novel Series, Amulet, and the Archie Comics. I also remember the heavy stigma surrounding graphic novels: teachers, parents, and classmates would always look down on them as if they were not “challenging enough.” For most of their existence, Graphic novels have been consistently downplayed, demeaned, and dismissed due to the perception of them being for kids, not providing any real value, and the featured pictures taking away words you could be reading instead. As a result, kids like myself were forced to read traditional novels that were dry, boring, and uninspired.
There is no doubt that traditional novels are vital for literacy development in children. They prompt the brain to mentally visualize stories, hence requiring more effort, creativity, and imagination; however, this does not always translate into benefits for children. Graphic novels should not be neglected. They offer a variety of other literacy benefits that are outlined below:
The International Society for Technology in Education defines visual literacy as the ability to read pictures. It is the idea that pictures are nuanced and can be critically “read.” Visual literacy is a pressing skill in this 21st century. For instance, the Alberta Curriculum for ELA K-6 has stressed the idea that “visual media [is] becoming important.” Graphic novels help strengthen this need by exposing the readers to a series of complex images while reinforcing the meaning behind these messages with text, and vice versa; readers build strong inference and literacy skills.
Levels the playing field for all types of readers
The American Association of School Libraries and a research article by Maples et al. (2016) suggest that graphic novels can assist children that are new to English reading. Graphic novels use a combination of texts and visuals, which are also less intimidating to English-as-an-additional language (EAL) readers by filling in gaps when they don’t know a word. Slowly introducing EAL readers to texts aids in the development of vocabulary and proficiency. Dyslexic readers benefit from graphics novels as well, providing cues to understand stories, according to the Yale Centre for Dyslexia & Creativity.
Engages reluctant readers:
Similarly to engaging EAL readers, Judd Winick, a children’s book author, contends that graphic novels are not overwhelming to get into reading. Traditional novels on the other hand often scare off reluctant readers as they find it too daunting to begin a book that has paragraphs over paragraphs. A graphic novel’s visuals are a way to draw readers into reading without neglecting the importance of developing literacy through strengthening their vocabulary and reading comprehension skills.
Encourages critical thinking:
Scholastic Canada and research complied by Northwestern School found there are parallel benefits between graphic novels and traditional novels; both have story arcs that carry complex themes, ideas, and characters. To effectively grasp and fully comprehend the story, readers are encouraged to critically think and disseminate what the story aims to convey.
Quick to read:
Getting at least some reading is better than no reading at all! The Markham Public Library suggests that the length of graphic novels enables people to actually finish books. I, for instance, always leave a pile of books stacked and never have any time to finish them. Graphic novels are a good alternative to this problem. Readers get to feel a sense of accomplishment once they finish a book and feel determined to finish another one.
To sum up the benefits, Josh Elder, founder and president of Reading With Pictures categorizes comics (often synonymous with graphic novels) into three E’s: Engagement, Efficiency, and Effectiveness. Graphic novels bring a variety of benefits to readers. They are filled with wonderful illustrations while maintaining the masterpiece of storytelling. Go visit your local library and give a graphic novel book a read!