In recent years, graphic novels have exploded in popularity. They are everywhere. And kids are excited about reading them. When I look at the circulation statistics in my K-5 library, graphic novels are some of the most checked out titles. El Deafo, Star Wars: Jedi Academy, Smile, and The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Evil Penguin Plan are just a few that fly off the shelves on a regular basis. Roller Girl, a 2016 Newbery Honor Book, is another one. Based on this information, one would think that educators and parents would be wholly supportive of their students and children reading these books. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
The Truth Behind Graphic Novels
Many parents and educators view graphic novels as glorified comic strips. They don’t believe that these books are quality pieces of literature. I’ve had students tell me that their parents won’t let them read graphic novels because they’re “not real books.” I’ve also had classroom teachers encourage their students to select “real books” and not graphic novels when they visit the school library. For all of the nay-sayers, I’d like to set the record straight. Graphic novels are REAL BOOKS. They are full length stories told in paneled, sequential, graphic format. They are NOT simply collections of comic strips. Many genres are written in graphic novel format, including fantasy, realistic fiction, historical fiction, biography, and nonfiction. They are NOT all about superheroes, nor do they all include scantily clad characters.
Creating Lifelong Readers
Graphic novels promote literacy in a variety of ways. They attract and motivate kids to read. The same titles can appeal to both reluctant and advanced readers. The illustrations provide struggling readers and ESL students with contextual clues to access the meaning of the written text. Graphic novels can offer students opportunities to read about diverse characters. As a school librarian, I want to help each of my students find a book they will love. For a variety of reasons, some students can’t get excited about picture books, chapter books, novels, or poetry. However, these students may fall in love with reading if they’re introduced to graphic novels. We owe it to our students to help them discover the joy of reading.
Choosing the Right Graphic Novels for Your Collections
There are many resources available to help you select the best graphic novels for your collections. The ALA’s Association for Library Service to Children has compiled recommended reading lists of graphic novels, broken up by age level.
Here are some other graphic novels that are worth checking out.
- School Library Journal’s 2016 Top 10 Graphic Novels
- YALSA’s 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens
- The 2015 Nerdies: Graphic Novel Winners
I was recently awarded a grant by the Southington American Legion Auxiliary to purchase 50 new graphic novels for my library. My students were thrilled when I shared this news with them. I’m hoping this grant will shine a light on the importance of graphic novels and help the entire school community recognize the value they bring to our collection.
What have your experiences been with parents, educators, and graphic novels?
Author: Jenna Grodzicki
I have been in education for the past 15 years. Currently, I am the K-5 Library Media Specialist at Thalberg Elementary School in Southington, Connecticut. Prior to that, I taught kindergarten, first grade, and third grade. I am also a picture book author. My first book, PIXIE’S ADVENTURE, is coming out in early 2017 from eTreasures Publishing. More than anything, I LOVE to read! I also love skiing and cheering for the best team in baseball, the Boston Red Sox!