1. Anything that gets them reading is a good thing.
If your child can find something they enjoy reading that is age-appropriate, then please don't take it away from them. I'm convinced that one of the biggest hurdles a child faces in their education is the learning-to-like-reading hurdle. If they find a graphic novel they love, they just might take the first step into become a lifelong reader. Should you only let your child read graphic novels? Probably not (Do you let your child eat only ice cream?), but the range of content in this format will probably surprise you, which leads me to...
2. There are some high quality graphic novels in all genres out there.
Graphic novels are a format...not a genre. You can find well-reviewed and well-loved graphic novels about anything under the sun, and I don't just mean fiction. Some of my favorite graphic novels are non-fiction titles and biographies (such as Satrapi's Persepolis and To Dance by Siena Siegel), and I adore reading graphic adaptations of classic novels (like Marvel's Jane Austen series). These classic books adaptations are especially great for reluctant readers because they are getting exposed to the original work (often with the original text) in a way that's fun for them. It's a wonderful way to ease them into a love of classic literature. If you give a reluctant reader a copy of Pride and Prejudice, he or she may initially get too bogged down in the language to like it, but give a reluctant reader a graphic novel of Pride and Prejudice, and he or she may like it. And once they like it, they will probably want to read the original, and since they're already familiar with the plot and the characters and a lot of the original dialogue, they may like that too...and they'll probably want a cookie to go with it (couldn't resist the Numeroff joke). ;)
3. Contrary to popular belief, graphic novels are "real books" and can actually make your kids smarter.
Okay...I say that a bit cheekily, but graphic novels do include many higher-level vocabulary words, and they help kids develop visual literacy. What is this "visual literacy" I speak of? It's the ability to "read" images. It's how we follow movies and television shows. By using images in comic strip format, graphic novels teach us how to create narratives frame by frame and understand what's happening in the story when there aren't any words. The old adage is still true; a picture can be worth 1,000 words, and in our increasingly-digital and visual society, it's important for students to be able to interpret and comprehend visual arts as well as the written word, and graphic novels allow them to do both! One of my absolute favorite examples of this is a book that's a quasi-graphic novel - Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. This tale alternates between a boy's perspective told in words and a girl's perspective told entirely in beautiful charcoal illustrations, and when the stories begin to intersect, it blows your mind!
So that's my two cents on the subject, and I'll leave you with a short list of a few more of my favorite graphic novels with the Goodreads links:
- The Babymouse series and the Squish series by Jennifer and Matt Holm (who are also amazingly nice people and once autographed my books while wearing a princess hat and a knight's helmet at an American Library Association conference...see? Matt looks so pretty in pink haha!)
- The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi
- American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
- Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson
- Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony
- Inside Out: Portrait of an Eating Disorder by Nadia Shivack
- Little Rock Nine by Marshall Poe
- The Oz adaptations by Eric Shanower
- The Percy Jackson adaptations by Rick Riordan
- The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston
- Smile by Raina Telgemeier
- Maus by Art Spiegelman (because every great graphic novel list must include this one)
Please feel free to leave your favorite titles in a comment below! :)