Graphic novels get a lot of flak—some say they’re the cotton candy of reading material, or that they’re low on words and, therefore, literary merit. We certainly don’t agree! Some of Literati’s most beloved book offerings are graphic novels, and for good reason: the stories are widely accessible and create excitement about reading in general.
Besides being books that kids like to read, graphic novels also enhance critical thinking skills. Text and illustration work in tandem in these stories, so everything on the page is important—and often shed light on things off the page. Reading one is a fully absorbing experience even for pre-K and elementary schoolers. So we’re here to show how you can use these books’ special attraction to foster a deeper understanding of storytelling.
Graphic novels draw in young readers
If your young student struggles with reading or doesn’t always seem interested in it, graphic novels provide an accessible format that won’t overwhelm them. Because these stories often play out in panels with smaller portions of text in speech bubbles (so you always know who’s speaking right away), a reader can take in the action through bite-sized morsels.
The lively visuals help keep the momentum going, catching the attention and carrying it through to the final page. Being able to complete a story can make young readers feel more confident in their abilities, which can lead them to tackle different types of books. Or, they’ll want to revisit familiar characters in additional tales, in which case authors of graphic novels satisfy faithful readers by releasing a series of books. Either way, graphic novels open up many new reading possibilities.
Graphic novels support interpretative skills
Even if they don’t have the same amount of text as other books your child could be reading, graphic novels still showcase storytelling elements in a uniquely complex way. The illustrations aren’t just there for colorful background; they’re needed to fully understand what’s going on. There are also plenty of rich details worth analyzing (especially if there are moments where text is absent). If you’re reading with your child, you can encourage critical thinking by focusing on certain topics.
Characters’ facial expressions
How does body language express someone’s mood even if they aren’t saying anything? Does it look like this character is saying they feel one way, but actually feels a different way?
Are there clean lines or rough edges? Why do you think the illustrator chose to draw people and things in this way? How can you connect it to what’s happening in the story?
Use of color
Does the illustrator use a certain color more than others? Do the colors seem to have to do with how the characters feel?
Or find other questions to ask! In any case, the ability to make inferences is a useful skill to have when reading any book, and graphic novels lend themselves to these types of questions especially well.
Graphic novels that delight young readers
From odd couples and trios to talking food and condiments, these books have humor, inviting visuals, and accessible layouts that kids can engage with from start to finish:
- Escape from Balloonia (Blue, Barry & Pancakes Series) by Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson.
- S’more Than Meets the Eye! (Nugget and Dog Series) by Jason Tharp.
- Quest for the Unicorn’s Horn by Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan & Roman Díaz
More than just popular
Whether it’s an on-ramp or the destination itself, the graphic novel is a special medium that can speak to kids across reading levels through the universal pull of pictures. Its aim is to tell a good story, but it can also show without telling. With co-dependent text and illustrations, young readers connect the dots to see the story in full. Unlike cotton candy, which seems substantial until you eat it, graphic novels offer more richness than may meet the eye—and they’re still fun to look at!
Grow your graphic novel library with Literati Book Clubs
Characters from graphic novels can leap off the page and onto your doorstep when you subscribe to one of our Kids Book Clubs. Using information about your child’s reading interests, curators will send monthly boxes of fresh reads sparkling with artistic vision that put the many different powers of storytelling on full display!