Not too long ago, I was in our local public library and heard a mom tell her son he couldn’t check out a graphic novel. She told him he had to get “real” books. I overheard this as I was walking with my son to the checkout with his 9 graphic novels. 🙂
I share this not to shame this particular parent because I don’t think she is alone in her view on graphic novels not being “real” books. In addition, I think we have teachers who would also agree with that sentiment. Graphic novels get a bad wrap for sure because of the perception of them being easy to read or for kids who are lazy and don’t want a traditional chapter book. They could not be more wrong.
Graphic novels are not always easier to read. In some cases, they are harder. In addition to the text, the reader has to interpret images which add to the overall experience of reading. The symbolism, metaphor and subtle clues within a graphic novel take what many think is a format for just reluctant readers and makes it also a viable format for advanced readers. Yet, at the end of the day, it’s about the reader. If any kid, regardless of reading ability, wants to read a graphic novel, let them. Our goal should be to get kids reading and embrace it in whatever form it takes.
Another point I often make to folks who don’t value graphic novels, is maybe they have not come across a good one yet. Yes, there are some really poorly done graphic novels, just like poorly written traditional novels. However, some graphic novels engage readers in ways no other format could. Below are a few of my favorites which I share with our junior high students.
Hey, Kiddo is a sad and powerful story about addiction, family and finding your purpose in life.
Speak is a well-known novel and one that many teachers and students alike have read. However, the graphic novel is another experience altogether. It tells the story of sexual assault in a way which must be read and seen to appreciate not only the story but the artwork as well.
Ok, I know you are thinking there is no way you will want to read a book about Jeffery Dahmer. I get it. However, this one got me for sure. It is the story of Dahmer's high school years told from the perspective of one of his classmates. It is a story of sadness, tragedy and missed opportunities to help a troubled boy.
The Graveyard Book is a popular book in our library so when the graphic novel was released I know we needed to grab it. I was not let down at all as the artwork truly captures this unique and frighteningly fun tale of a boy raised in a graveyard.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
This is a well-told story with visually stunning graphics. It is perfect for fans of knights, castles, shapeshifters and that eternal struggle between good and evil.