When I was first working as a children’s librarian, I had a very frustrated mother come to me with her son. He did not like to read and she didn’t know what to do. She wanted him to be reading chapter books and he had no interest. I started to talk to her son and asked him about his interests, but he was not forthcoming. I decided to take him over to our graphic novel section and when we arrived his face lit up because he recognized a specific graphic novel that his friend had been reading at school. He scooped it off the shelf and started paging through it. His mom was not so excited about this discovery, but I was able to explain what a graphic novel is and that kids could actually benefit from reading them. In the end, she decided to let her son check some out. I was absolutely thrilled to see her son leaving with books in hand that he was excited about!
Graphic novels have become more mainstream in recent years and many people are aware of their existence. However, I would like to define what a graphic novel is for those who wonder or might not be familiar. There are variations on the definition but the one I find most fitting is the American Library Association’s definition. They describe graphic novels as “full length stories told in paneled, sequential graphics.”
Like the mother in my anecdote, some parents are skeptical as to why they would allow their children to read a graphic novel. It has been shown that there are benefits to kids reading graphic novels besides the fact that it is a pleasurable experience. Graphic novels are often highly beneficial for reluctant readers, specifically boys. The visual nature of the novel pulls them into the story. Graphic novels also appeal to advanced readers because of the intricate plots and narrative structure. They can also be highly beneficial to English Language Learners and students with special needs because the images provide contextual clues for the written story.
There are graphic novels for just about any age group from kindergarten up to adults. The subject matter varies widely and there is truly something for everyone. The library is a great resource if you are interested in exploring graphic novels with your child. You can always ask a youth services librarian for help finding them and giving specific suggestions. The American Library Association also has grade specific lists that can be found at http://www.ala.org/alsc/graphicnovels2014.
I will leave you with a list of some of my favorite graphic novels for kids, tweens, and teens:
Benny and Penny in Lost and Found by Geoffrey Hayes
Penny the mouse tries to help her brother Benny find his favorite hat, but Benny warns her that he is in a bad mood. Gr K-2
Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
The school lunch lady is a secret crime fighter who uncovers an evil plot to replace all the popular teachers with robots. Gr 3-5
Babymouse, Queen of the World! by Jennifer L. Holm
An imaginative mouse dreams of being queen of the world, but will settle for an invitation to the most popular girl’s slumber party. Gr 3-5
Amulet, The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
Two ordinary children, Emily and Navin, enter a world of terrible, man-eating demons, a mechanical rabbit, a talking fox, and a giant robot in order to save their mother. Gr 4 and up
Zita the Spacegirl: Far From Home by Ben Hatke
When young Zita discovers a device that opens a portal to another place, and her best friend is abducted, she is compelled to set out on a strange journey from star to star in order to get back home. Gr 3-5
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Raina Telgemeier chronicles a three week road trip she took with her family when she was a tween age girl. She specifically focuses on the contentious relationship she has with her younger sister. Gr 3-5
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences revolving around school, friends, and the large hearing aid she wore called a Phonic Ear. A poignant story about a young girl finding her place in the world. Gr 6-8
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
Two friends, Rose and Windy, have vacationed every summer at the same beach ever since they were little girls. This summer is different and they are lucky to have each other as they learn about secrets, sorrow, and growing up. Gr 8 and up
Great graphic novels for teens can be found at YALSA site.