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Maureen Kauzlarich

Children's Author

Why Graphic Novels Are Important

Kids are zombies. They zone in on televisions, computers, tablets, game consoles at home, in the car, even at school. They’re like fireflies to those screens. This is one of the many reasons why graphic novels are at utmost importance in children’s literature today. They bridge the gap between reading and media-type entertainment. They’re a cross between a comic and a book. They are great for those kids that claim they “hate reading.” Here are seven reasons graphic novels are important for kids today.

 

  1. Easier for Reluctant Readers

With so many devices catching kids’ eyes, it's harder than ever to get them to read. We need to divert their attention the same way a diversion works with leading away zombies. Graphic novels trick kids to read. I know that sounds horrible, but this is a good trick (I promise). When kids feel scared to read, graphic novels help to ease anxiety with visual and context clues. By seeing an image with a short string of words or one word gives readers a better idea of what the words mean. The breakup of longer sentences into panels (the boxed pictures) makes it easier to keep their attention, too. The book will zip by and kids don’t even realize they’re reading. That’s the trick!

 

  1.  English Language Learners

English Language Learners (ELL) can get a lot of takeaway from graphic novels. First off, the cultural aspect. The pictures coupled with the lingo and slang of a country helps provide background. They get a sense of what other kids are like. Second, the words arranged with the pictures help provide clarity to the meaning of ideas. If they come across a word or phrase they don't understand, the pictures help give a clue to the meaning. Also, facial expressions and hand movements are very helpful when learning another language. These gestures are in graphic novels, and since it's not a moving picture, they can linger and think.

 

  1.  Early Literacy Skills

When teachers want their class to remember words, they have students spell it, define it, write a sentence with it AND draw a picture. Graphic novels give all the literacy skills a kid will need. Similes, onomatopoeia (Kaboom!), alliteration . . . you name it and you are bound to find it in graphic novels. There is a lot of voice coming from the dialogue and characters. The plot is also usually fast-paced. This means that kids' brains are working in overdrive by guessing what happens next. Braiiins! (Now think of a small panel image with a zombie and your brain starts guessing where the story is going.)

 

  1.  Entertaining Engagement

You’ll know you have an excellent graphic novel if the child reading it is constantly laughing. This means they're engaged and invested in the story. They are roped in and there’s no going back. Graphic novels provide surprise images that go along with the text beautifully. A wordless panel of a character in a predicament only enhances the words thereafter. It also amplifies the narrative. Kids keep reading to see how the characters get out of their funny situations. The dialogue with laugh-out-loud facial expressions stays imprinted in the reader’s mind. Imagine seeing a zombie zoned out on the couch watching a zombie movie. Now think of the zombie's reactions to the movie. Listen to their voice and the actual words the zombie might say. So many engaging elements were just provided in one panel.

 

  1.  Entrance into Reading

Going from short chapter books to full-length middle grade books can be daunting to young readers. Graphic novels are a nice bridge to fill the gap. They provide the comfort of picture storytelling into the novel world. These books turn longer plots into manageable blocks. Not only are graphic novels a gateway into reading, they're also an introduction to powerful illustration. “Powerful” in the way that even without words, they keep the gears in the brains of those zombie kids working.

 

  1.  Empathy

Another reason that graphic novels are so important in today’s world is empathy. Kids see the characters' faces change frequently as they zip through the panels. A deeper, clearer understanding emerges out of the characters’ distress or misery. It’s easier to linger over an idea in a still picture than a word. The reader quickly has hope for the characters and their story. Poor zombie. I have hope for you yet!

 

  1.  Eager

A lot of kids are eager to read, but they're frightened off for whatever reason. (Maybe a book about zombies overfloods with hard-to-read sentences.) Graphic novels can turn eagerness and anxiety into love for storytelling and confidence in reading. Eventually, they’ll be ready to read bulkier word only books. For now, graphic novels are an awesome addition to the world of literacy and illustration.

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