3rd grade was speed dating with some new graphic novel series this week. Not a Captain Underpants or Diary of a Wimpy Kid in sight! It’s already working—they’ve all called dibs on some awesome new titles, and more new authors have gone out this week to 3rd grade than ever before! Click on the photos below to see them more closely.
Wondering what graphic novels are and why I would encourage kids to read them? Here’s some great information from Scholastic as to the value of encouraging kids to read them!
“WHAT ARE GRAPHIC NOVELS?
In this context, the word “graphic” does not mean “adult” or “explicit.” Graphic novels are books written and illustrated in the style of a comic book. To be considered a graphic novel, rather than a picture book or illustrated novel, the story is told using a combination of words and pictures in a sequence across the page. Graphic novels can be any genre, and tell any kind of story, just like their prose counterparts. The format is what makes the story a graphic novel, and usually includes text, images, word balloons, sound effects, and panels.
This basic way of storytelling has been used in various forms for centuries—early cave drawings, hieroglyphics, and medieval tapestries like the famous Bayeux Tapestry can be thought of as stories told in pictures.
The term “graphic novel” is generally used to describe any book in a comic format that resembles a novel in length and narrative development. Graphic novels are a subgenre of “comics,” which is a word you may also hear people use when referring to this style of book.
ARE GRAPHIC NOVELS SUITABLE FOR THE YOUNG, AND HOW DO I EVALUATE THEM?
Some parents, educators, and librarians may associate the term “graphic novel” with content that is not suitable for young readers. Today there is a wide range of titles and, though not all graphic novels are intended for children, there are more titles published expressly for kids coming out every month.
HOW DO GRAPHIC NOVELS PROMOTE LITERACY?
Graphic novels powerfully attract and motivate kids to read. Many librarians have built up graphic novel collections and have seen circulation figures soar. School librarians and educators have reported outstanding success getting kids to read with graphic novels, citing particularly their popularity with reluctant readers, especially boys—a group traditionally difficult to reach. At the same time, graphic novels with rich, complex plots and narrative structures can also be satisfying to advanced readers. In fact, graphic novels are flexible enough that often the same titles can be equally appealing to both reluctant and advanced readers. Providing young people of all abilities with diverse reading materials, including graphic novels, can help them become lifelong readers.
Graphic novels can be a way in for students who are difficult to reach through traditional texts. Even those deemed poor readers willingly and enthusiastically gravitate toward these books. Readers who are not interested in reading or who, despite being capable of reading, prefer gaming or watching media, can be pulled into a story by the visual elements of graphic novels.
BENEFITS TO STRUGGLING READERS, SPECIAL-NEEDS STUDENTS, AND ENGLISH-LANGUAGE LEARNERS
Graphic novels can dramatically help improve reading development for students struggling with language acquisition, including special-needs students, as the illustrations provide contextual clues to the meaning of the written narrative. They can provide autistic students with clues to emotional context that they might miss when reading traditional text. English-language learners will be more motivated by graphic novels, and will more readily acquire new vocabulary and increase English proficiency.
BUT ARE GRAPHIC NOVELS “REAL BOOKS”? ARE THEY “LITERATURE”? DO THEY COUNT AS “READING”?
Some parents and educators may feel that graphic novels are not the “type of reading material” that will help young people grow as readers. They may cling to the belief that graphic novels are somehow a bad influence that undermines “real reading”—or they may dismiss graphic novels as inferior literature, or as “not real books.” At best, they may regard them as something to be tolerated as a means of motivating the most reluctant readers, who, they hope, will eventually “move on” to more “quality literature.”
ACCEPTANCE BY LIBRARIANS AND EDUCATORS
Graphic novels have come to be accepted by librarians and educators as a method of storytelling on a par with novels, picture books, movies, or audiobooks.
The American Library Association has recognized this in establishing its annual list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and in 2011 they added the annually updated Core Collection of Graphic Novels for young readers in grades K through 8. In 2007, the graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (First Second) won the Michael L. Printz Award for best young adult book of the year. The same year, To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin) was named a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book (for informational book), and in 2010 Little Mouse Gets Ready (Toon Books) won a Theodor Seuss Geisel honor.
In 2014, the American Library Association showed their continued support of the format in offering the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries, two grants awarded annually to support libraries and librarians in building the best collections and presenting educational programming on the format for their communities.
FOSTERING ACQUISITION OF CRITICAL READING SKILLS
The notion that graphic novels are too simplistic to be regarded as serious reading is outdated. The excellent graphic novels available today are linguistically appropriate reading material demanding many of the same skills that are needed to understand traditional works of prose fiction. Often they actually contain more advanced vocabulary than traditional books at the same age/grade/interest level. They require readers to be actively engaged in the process of decoding and comprehending a range of literary devices, including narrative structures, metaphor and symbolism, point of view, and the use of puns and alliteration, intertextuality, and inference. Reading graphic novels can help students develop the critical skills necessary to read more challenging works, including the classics.
On top of the connections to analyzing text, graphic novels inspire readers to understand and interpret information differently from how readers process prose. In a world where young people are growing up navigating narratives presented through websites, video games, television, films, and increasingly interactive media, learning and maintaining visual literacy is a necessary skill. Today’s world of stories contains far more than just prose, and readers who are skilled at understanding and being critical of multiple formats will excel.”
So next time your student comes home with a “comic book,” take a minute to look it over yourself. You might be surprised at its sophistication–and you may find a new favorite genre to read yourself!
To read more from this article, find it in its entirety here.