Whenever we visit our grandchildren, we always check with them to find out what they would like us to bring. Last time, we were asked to bring a Hardy Boys graphic novel. When I suggested a “real” book instead, I was politely but firmly chastised by my 7 year-old grandson. I asked him to tell me what was special about graphic novels. Without a second delay he replied, “Lots of action. You can actually see what the characters look like. You can see who is talking.”
I decided I needed to know more about graphic novels and headed to the school library. I found that though graphic novels look like comic books, it would be a mistake to judge them by their cover. To start, they’re typically longer than comic books, usually bound like traditional books, and sold in book stores instead of newsstands. I found graphic novels from every imaginable genre, including the classics.
I began reading, and a new fan was born. Graphic novels, I thought, are really picture books on steroids. When our kids begin to read, we use books that have a picture on a page and a few words describing the picture. We attempt to engage the reader by using pictures to provide visual clues to help build a better understanding of the printed word.
When choosing a book to read, developing readers usually look at how much print is on a page. While they may be more than capable of reading the text, they may feel overwhelmed. A graphic novel may be more appealing to some and encourage reading.
Graphic novels are a good bridge between picture books and chapter books, which could be useful for your elementary school reader. It may also be easier to initially engage your child with questions about the drawings as well as the text.
That said, graphic novels are not a replacement for traditional books. Think of them as just another way to tell a story. If your child is assigned a book report on Moby Dick, reading the graphic novel is a short-cut and will not do. Understand that while graphic novels are great tools to encourage little ones to love learning, they should just be one of many things your child reads as he or she develops.
If you are not yet a fan of graphic novels, consider Robin Hood , retold by Aaron Shepard and A. Watson, or Black Beauty , retold by L.L. Owens. After reading those graphic novels you may find that you have changed your mind too.