Growing Future Readers with Graphic Novels
Summer is winding down here in Traverse City. It has been so much fun watching folks explore our newly rearranged kids section. There is so much enthusiasm for children’s literature, and I love getting to share in that experience by helping kids and families find the right book! One of the most popular sections that has grown a ton is graphic novels. This has been a fun section to expand, especially with recent growth in early graphic readers — thanks Dav Pilkey for paving the way with everyone’s favorite, Dog Man! Kids are so excited to find the ones they know and discover new favorites.
Over and over though, we see the resistance, parents and caregivers worried about “real reading”, encouraging their kids to find a lengthier novel without pictures. As a parent myself, I get where the worry comes from. We know what an important role literacy plays in growing young people into healthy adults. It can feel stressful if your child isn’t reading where their peers are or are reluctant to pick up a book. We are reminded to make sure they are reading every day, and on the academic side of things, it can be worrisome if your child isn’t reaching milestones when they are expected to.
So, here’s why you should feel okay about them picking up a graphic novel — graphic novels grow readers! Teachers and reading specialists all agree that literacy is gained with more reading, making graphic novels a great option for kids that are reluctant to read. They are accessible and give kids that rewarding feeling of finishing a book. And then, feeling excited about the next book in a favorite series keeps the momentum going.
There is a lot of decoding that happens when reading graphic novels. Interpreting illustrations and relating it to the text is an important skill for developing readers. I also think that illustrations can help some kids understand concepts that might go over their head normally. Facial expressions and body language can reveal a lot, helping with comprehension when they are encountering a new concept or social situation they are unfamiliar with.
Reframing graphic novels as “real reading” gives kids a chance to feel proud of their reading ability and success. I think we should definitely keep encouraging them to pick up those chapter books, building their reading stamina, but don’t be afraid to let them enjoy a graphic novel along the way as well!