Are graphic novels “real” books? I get this question a lot so let’s talk about why graphic novels are read books and why it is okay to include them in your child’s reading library.
What About Graphic Novels for Kids?
“It’s not a REAL book!” You may have thought this when you see books like Captain Underpants at the library or see classic literature in graphic novel form. I understand your hesitation to give these types of books to your child. At first, it does seem like they are indeed not “real” books, but let’s take a closer look at graphic novels as real literature and I hope you do change your mind about them!
I was working in an elementary school a few years back and popped into the book sale–because who can resist looking at and touching all those new books? I was looking at new chapter books that might interest my son when I heard a mom and her son arguing.
“No, you can’t get that. It’s not a real book,” she told him.
“But, mom,” he replied, “I promise I’ll read it!”
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Should You Allow Your Child to Read Graphic Novels?
I casually maneuvered my way around the racks to see what this “not a real book” was that the mom was opposed to buying. It was a graphic novel.
The graphic novel has gained popularity in recent years and is an upgrade from the comic book of years ago. I knew that some boys liked the fast pace of the graphic novel, the high-quality illustrations, and the adventure stories usually associated with them. I silently started chanting: “Let him get it. Let him get it.” All the while having the internal conversation with myself about whether, as a reading specialist, it was appropriate for me to but in on their conversation!
I let the mom in me (nobody wants unsolicited advice in front of their child) get the better of me and I kept silent. I was crushed, however, when she drew the line in the sand and said: “If that’s the only thing you want then we are leaving and you’re not getting anything.” And so they did. Ugh, I regretted not saying something.
Why I Say Yes to Graphic Novels for Kids
While a graphic novel may not be every parent’s idea of great literature, if it interests a child, and it’s in line with the content you approve, then let him read it!
Choice is a powerful motivator and you should always, always, always encourage children to read what interests them.
Our first rule about reading is that it should be fun and stress-free!
I once tutored a second-grader who was behind in reading and truthfully did not want to read or practice reading. I desperately needed to find him reading material so he could practice. I talked with him until I found something he was interested in, we visited the school library together, and we found him an armful of Calvin and Hobbes books to take home. His parents were thrilled that he was reading at home and that practice moved him forward in his reading skills.
Where Graphic Novels Fits In with Other Literature
2. Graphic novels help struggling or reluctant readers
Many experts will recommend that you start with phonics readers only, move to I Can Read books, short chapter books, and then on to classic children’s literature. I say, include all of the above AND anything your child is interested in reading or learning about! And don’t forget joke books, and magazines, and encyclopedias, and websites, and poems too!
Graphic novels now come in versions that offer children who struggle to read an opportunity to read the classics without feeling overwhelmed. You can find Robinson Crusoe, Alice in Wonderland and more. You can find biographies and historical fiction in graphic novel form as well. Use these to spark interest in a new or unknown topic and allow the child who is behind in their reading skills to enjoy great stories too!
As always, remember to Read, read more, read more often. ~Mary
3. Graphic Novels Are Appealing to Boys Who Tend to Read Less Than Girls
Boys have particular reading tastes. If you have a boy who is a reluctant reader, here is a list of series books that are tried and true and proven to please even the pickiest reader. Remember, your goal is to raise a lifelong reader who loves to read so helping your child find books that will make him a reader is more important than sticking to a list of classics or books we liked when we were kids.