As a teacher, parent, and book blogger, I get incredibly frustrated when I see graphic novels being described as ‘just a bit of fun’ or ‘not proper reading’. Neither of those descriptions are accurate and can be incredibly damaging for a child who enjoys reading stories in that format. There are many reasons why graphic novels are a must-have in any classroom or home. Let me sing the praises of these image-packed wonders!
The most obvious and most often-cited benefit of graphic novels is that they can be a way into reading for those who are usually reluctant to do so. Readers of graphic novels can slide into a complex story without the barrier of blocks of heavy prose, quickly developing their skills of comprehension, improving their vocabulary and learning how to enjoy reading. This is certainly true in my experience and is a tactic I have used myself many times to hook a child into reading – even having to form a waiting list for highly prized titles. They also sparked a wave of peer recommendations which are much more powerful than suggestions made by an adult! The highly illustrated format and often humorous plotlines have plenty of child appeal but they should definitely not be reserved solely for the reluctant and they are not always an easy option.
Reading a graphic novel requires a very different set of reading skills to a standard prose title. In order to fully enjoy a graphic novel, readers need to employ a sophisticated range of visual literacy skills – the same skills you would need to use in order to interpret a painting, photograph or other people. Readers needs to understand a sequence of events, infer a character’s emotions or motives from non-verbal cues, and discern the story’s plot. The multitude of visual cues within a graphic novel (illustrations or the emphasis placed on certain pieces of the text using a bold or italic font, for example) can also offer a real lifeline for dyslexic readers who are already highly skilled at decoding texts in this manner.
Graphic novels do not just tackle humorous subject matters (although there are some brilliant ones which do!). There are excellent adaptations of classics such as Macbeth which expertly manage to capture the essence of plot and characters in a very few words, providing an entry point into challenging materials for a whole new swathe of readers. I also love the graphic novel adaptations of well-known titles such as Anthony Horowitz’s Stormbreaker or the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. A great addition to the series for existing fans and a great way in for those whose reading skills don’t quite match their peers’ yet.
There is such a fantastic range of graphic novels available. Here are some of my top recommendations:
Once you start exploring the wonderful world of graphic novels, you (and any readers you give them to), will very quickly become hooked. There really is something for every reader, of every ability, with every
Jo is an experienced primary school teacher and English leader with a passion for children’s books. As well as blogging about new children’s books and recording a podcast with author and illustrator interviews, she has been involved in longlisting and judging national books awards. Jo has recently co-founded Mind Superheroes – a children’s mental health project.