Opened book with a wonderful world inside.
Blog 04.03.2023


Use Graphic Novels for Reluctant Readers 

Graphic novels are sometimes mistaken for comics because the two mediums share some similarities. The main source of confusion comes from the illustration. Both graphic novels and comics rely heavily on visuals to tell a story. Instead of descriptive text explaining what is happening, comics and graphic novels show action using visuals, with the text mostly focusing on character thoughts and dialogue. The biggest differences between graphic novels and comics are length and pacing.

Graphic novels have a clear beginning, middle, and end and focus on telling a single narrative. There is typically a clear-cut message and theme told by the end of the story. Comics are more commonly part of a series and have a variety of writers and artists. The overall messages and themes vary between issues, largely based on who is writing at the time. Comics are typically much shorter in length and rely on multiple issues to tell stories. Because graphic novels more closely resemble traditional writing, it is an excellent tool for parents or teachers who are having trouble getting children interested in reading.

Improving Engagement and Literacy

Two children reading books in the forest.

One of the biggest advantages that graphic novels have over traditional novels is engagement. Many children are reluctant to read because they feel overwhelmed by the amount of text in a novel. This is especially common among readers between six to nine years of age since this is around the time they start transitioning into reading books with a greater emphasis on text and fewer illustrations. As books develop more prose, younger readers struggle to focus and follow the story. The style of book also changes, with more descriptive text to make up for the lack of visuals.

While graphic novels still include illustrations, the text is more advanced than either children’s books or comics. Many graphic novels use a more advanced vocabulary, but because there are shorter bursts of text, it is easier for readers to stay engaged. Advanced vocabulary also feels less overwhelming for younger readers because the pictures help to explain what is going on. As a result, children may see an unfamiliar word but grasp the meaning without having to ask an adult because the illustration provides context. Not only is this helping to improve literacy, but it also encourages critical thinking skills.

Improving Visual Literacy

While many of the benefits of graphic novels focus on reader engagement and developing better literacy, there are artistic benefits as well. Graphic novels manage to blend visual and written storytelling. By seeing how the styles blend, children improve their visual literacy. Visual literacy is your ability to understand, draw and discuss images. Educators believe visual literacy is an important skill to develop because, in the digital world, visuals are frequently used alongside written text.

In addition to understanding visual images, it also makes children think about their own artwork. Graphic novels provide clear examples of how to use an image to tell a story to a wider audience. While many children enjoy drawing and can create complex artwork, the meaning behind the drawing is typically unclear to anyone but the artist. Seeing visual storytelling informs young artists how they can use their drawings to convey a message all viewers are able to understand.

Creating Content

Graphic novels are not only a way to engage reluctant readers, but it also engages reluctant writers. Even children who enjoy reading are often limited in what they write because they still possess a limited vocabulary. Writing is also a longer form process, and many children do not have the patience to complete a project. Graphic novels provide an alternative. Because children are switching between writing and drawings, they are more engaged in the project. It also allows them to use illustrations as a way to express complex ideas, even with a limited vocabulary. 

Creating graphic novels also encourages children to think about what elements are necessary to tell a story. They are making decisions on what text is or is not important to the story, as well as deciding what visual elements are necessary to convey important plot details.

Spartan and the Green Egg

Spartan and the Green Egg, by Nabila Khashoggi, is an excellent graphic novel for children. The story is inspired by the stories Khashoggi used to tell to her son about a child traveling around the world in an alien egg. The goal of the story is not only to entertain children with a globetrotting adventure but also to share cultural experiences and inform readers about environmental issues. 

Image of Spartan and the 
Green egg, the Reefs of Mindoro by Nabila K.

One of the reasons it is highly recommended as a graphic novel to engage young readers is the number of books in the series. As of writing, there are five graphic novels in the series. Children have an easier time understanding and engaging with a story when they are reading about the same set of characters. 

Another way Spartan and the Green Egg keeps children interested is the number of accessories that go along with the book. There are numerous stickers, pins, and patches sold alongside the book. These items help children stay interested in the story, making them more likely to read the next book in the series.

Bug Boys

Bug Boys is a series of graphic novels written by Laura Knetzger. When the first graphic novel was released, it was intended to be a standalone piece. The graphic novel was such a hit that Knetzger decided to expand the story, turning it into a series. As of writing, there are currently three stories available. 

The story follows two beetles searching for treasure. The first novel touches on important themes, with the bulk of the story focusing on the two beetles getting into a fight but making up and restoring their friendship. While this may seem like a standard message, many children’s stories only focus on the value of friendship or how to make friends. Bug Boys shows children that even best friends will sometimes get into disagreements, but it does not mean their friendship has to end.

This Was Our Pact

This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews is aimed at a middle school audience. It tells the story of a small town celebrating an equinox festival. During the festival, the town launches paper lanterns into the water. The protagonist, Ben, wants to follow the lanterns, which supposedly lead to a magical world. None of his friends initially join him, but he’s accompanied by Nathaniel, another boy who is considered an outcast by the rest of the town. The story then turns into a sprawling adventure as Ben and Nathaniel explore a magical world. It is a visually engaging story with many important lessons about friendship and the dangers of judging individuals before you know them.

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