During the school year, comics and graphic novels (stories written in comic style) are often discouraged by teachers as well as parents, deemed as not being quality literature worthy of taking up space in kids’ reading diets. This is unfortunate, because comics and graphic novels:
- are written and read for the pure ‘fun’ factor, so they have the potential to instill an approach to reading for pleasure that eventually gets internalized and applied to other types of texts
- are often a hook specifically for reluctant readers and boys that leads to broader and lifelong reading, without which may not have ever occurred.
- actually require complex thinking and visual literacy skills for good comprehension. They also contain the same story elements and literary devices as narrative stories (such as characters and settings, central conflicts, themes, and points of view), so readers must apply many of the same strategies as they do for stories, such as making inferences about character thoughts and emotions, predicting, and identifying key plot elements and events. Many also contain complex plots and narrative structures, often with vocabularies more advanced than traditional books — so they can be satisfying and beneficial for advanced and avid readers as well!
These positives of graphic novels are often overlooked, which can result in a missed opportunity for kids to reap the cognitive and motivational benefits of this type of text. This is especially true for the summer, where graphic novels might potentially be the hook to a summer of reading that otherwise might not occur. And, a summer of reading comics might be a bridge to subsequent summers of eager, more varied reading experiences.
I have not yet read many graphic novels myself, so I cannot provide my own recommendations for this category of kidlit. (Though, per my daughter’s urging, I have read and greatly enjoyed Telgemeier’s middle grade graphic novel Smile and her more teen oriented Drama, and am looking forward to the late August release of Sisters, a follow-up to Smile.) There are some fantastic lists out there recommending graphic novels for kids. Here are my four favorite resources:
- The list of nominees and winners of the 2014 Eisner Comic Industry Awards — announced at the end of July and often referred to as the Comic Industry’s equivalent of the Oscar Awards. There are early reader, kids, and teen categories. Click here to check it out: http://www.comic-con.org/awards/will-eisner-comic-industry-award-nominees-2014)
- The American Library Association’s comprehensive list of the best currently available graphic novels, broken up into grade-level categories: http://www.ala.org/alsc/graphicnovels2013
- Check out the School Library Journal website at www.slj.com and search for “graphic novels”, which will turn up many articles and lists of graphic novels based on specific themes.
- Author James Patterson’s terrific list of recommended graphic novels for summer reading, at http://readkiddoread.com/uploads/graphic.php