One of the biggest concerns many parents have (this can be an issue for boys in particular) is how to encourage reading in their kids. No matter how many great novels you throw their way, some kids just don’t love it. Enter graphic novels. Graphic novels are not glorified comic books; they are novels using images as well as words to tell a story. Graphic novels have many advantages:
- The images give an overview of the story, which encourages the child to read the whole thing. By looking at the images they can get a sense immediately of what is happening, particularly good for kids who are really turned off books.
- They are fast paced. For high energy, boisterous kids (like my two boys) slowing down can sometimes be a problem. But graphic novels move quickly, the plots are exciting and there is often a good dose of action along the way. This makes the exciting to read, again circumnavigating the ‘I hate reading’ problem.
- The images reinforce not replace the language. At first it may seem that this is just a glorified picture book but with a really good graphic novel a full understanding is only really reached when the words and illustrations work together. A kid may begin by skimming, but they’ll soon be turning back to re-read when to gain a better understanding of what is happening.
- The language is high quality. A really good graphic novel has to pair great illustrations with clear dialogue, the language and the images work together to create the story. With so little space for words they are chosen with a great deal of care for maximum impact and can seriously add to your child’s vocabulary. They also deal with complex themes that will challenge them beyond their reading level.
- They can be read over and over…and over. Graphic novels are often a quick read, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen my son returning to the same book. He seems to read in different ways each time and I’m amazed by how much he picks up in such a short space of time. Like anyone returning to an old favorite, he reads more slowly and absorbs both the language, plot and characters in much more depth. Letting them read something that is familiar and fun (alongside work that is supportive and challenging) will reaffirm that they are a good reader and that books are fun.
If you’re looking for a good starting place with graphic novels, or looking to add to your collection, here are a five of our favorite series. As always, check any books to make sure that they are appropriate for your family.
- The Amulet Series: When my son began showing an interest in graphic novels at the library, I was really unhappy with the content he was finding on the shelves. Amulet was a great find and made us both very happy. Written by the great Kazu Kibuishi, the story revolves around a brother and sister ….
- The Percy Jackson graphic novels: We were already Percy Jackson fans when these graphic novels were released, and they were a great way to keep the series alive for my son. The novels were a bit too much of a reading challenge at that time, he’d adored the stories on audio book and kept wanting to listen over and over; but I wanted him to read. These books were perfect and are very high quality, they render the main plot and characters of the story really well and even serve as an example of how to summarize a story without losing the most important elements
- Artemis Fowl: This is another novel series turned graphic novel, we had enjoyed these in audio form but still wanted more! The story revolves around 12 year old millionaire Artemis Fowl, an Irish schoolboy turned arch criminal who discovers a hidden underworld of fairy folk unlike any you’ve ever met. These stories are truly wonderful with a strong core of humanity running through them as characters have to make tough decisions in a world that often seems pitted against them.
- The Lunch Lady series: My son read about 5 of these in one mammoth session and continued to re-read them until the library demanded their return! He would laugh uproariously at the antics of the central character as she “serves out justice along with lunch”. Fast paced and fun these would tempt even the most reluctant reader, and I admit I adore that the central character is a middle aged woman taking down cyborgs, ninja style.
- Moby Dick: While this book isn’t part of a series it is part of a concept, there are many wonderful graphic novel adaptations of classic novels out there. We’ve also loved this adaptation of Black Beauty and I plan to include many more in the future. Like an abridged version, the graphic novel provides the key elements of the story and hopefully negates some of the negativity often associated with reading ‘difficult’ classic stories. Many well known novels have been adapted and are a great way to give a child access to the key ideas, even when the novel itself is a bit too much. There are also wonderful adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays that really support and reinforce learning at any age.
If you are looking for even more inspiration the list on The Mighty Girl website has many fabulous suggestions that we can’t wait to try. This list is focused more on female characters, but there is no reason why boys won’t enjoy them just as much!
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