“My kids are only bringing home graphic novels to read!” “Ugh, they’re only checking out graphic novels!” “They’re not really reading with a graphic novel.” “What skills could they possibly learn from a graphic novel?” “My mom won’t let me read a graphic novel.”

These are just a few of the comments that I’ve grown accustomed to hearing from parents, teachers, and students regarding graphic novels. Most adults never seem satisfied when they see their kids reading these books. 

In recent years, graphic novels have grown tremendously in popularity. They are everywhere and the best part, kids are excited about reading them. As educators and parents, we should be embracing the fact that these books are reaching an audience that might not normally be even reading. Yet, unfortunately, that’s not always the case. 

Read The Beauty of Wordless Picture Books by Liz Janusz

The Truth about Graphic Novels

I think most adults view graphic novels as a simple comic strip, straight out of the old newspaper section. They also believe that these books cannot be counted as literature due to having “so many pictures”. I’ve also heard that graphic novels are hurting our children as readers. What?! That one blows my mind. How could having children willingly pick up a book and read it, hurt them? 

For all of the non-believers out there, graphic novels are in fact, REAL books. They are simply formatted and organized in a different way. Rather than a traditional novel, graphic novels tell the story in a paneled and sequential format using pictures mixed with text. Many genres are well-represented with graphic novels. I’ve also seen more and more popular novels becoming adapted into a graphic novel. The latest ones are the widely popular I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis and The Baby-Sitters Club series.  Both of these are two very different genres: historical fiction and realistic fiction. More and more books are getting adapted in a graphic novel version. Adults can no longer cast them aside as ”not real books”. We need to embrace them and support our students as they read them. 

Read How a Hashtag Made Me a Better Teacher by Liz Janusz

 

Embracing and Promoting Graphic Novels

Over the past few years, I’ve witnessed a wide range of students get excited about reading: students that typically would run the other direction from the library. The common factor in these students: graphic novels. Graphic novels promote a love of reading, and have renewed students’ excitement in choosing a book.  They attract students to novels that they normally wouldn’t choose. 

Explore myView Literacy for Grades K-5 including excellent graphic novels like

I recently worked with a 5th grade boy who refused to even try a novel. I knew that if I could just find the right book for him, it would click. After many failed attempts, I pulled Crossover by Kwame Alexander off my shelf, but the adapted graphic novel version. He seemed confused that I would even be recommending a book with pictures to him. I shared what it was about, crossed my fingers, and sent him off to class. A couple days later, he saw me in the hallway and smiled so wide. Not only did he finish it, but he asked if there were any more like it. I showed him Rebound and Booked, by the same author and he eagerly grabbed them. The neatest part: those two were still in novel format. Reading that first graphic novel hooked him onto an author that he never would’ve picked up otherwise and has helped him transition into independently reading novels

Teaching with Graphic Novels

Unfortunately, I’ve also come across teachers that feel strongly about not having graphic novels in the classroom. Their biggest concern: students aren’t really reading; they’re just “looking at pictures”. Yes, they’re right. Most of the students that read these books are just looking at the pictures. I can’t help but feel that we as educators need to take on that blame and responsibility. 

Graphic novels have been pushed to the back burner, when we owe it to our students to teach them how to read and comprehend a graphic novel. By allowing our students to just simply flip through the pictures, we’re missing a huge opportunity. Let’s start bringing these books into our teaching and explicitly teach them how to pair the text with the pictures, make inferences based off of a small clues, follow the dialogue between multiple characters, and synthesize new ideas while reading. 

Read Building a Culture of Readers by Liz Janusz

 

Please think about incorporating some of these great graphic novels into your own classroom and homes. Check out this compilations of Graphic Novels Lists on GoodReads and one of my favorite lists of middle grade graphic novels.

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Liz Janusz

Liz Janusz

ELA Instructional Coach

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.