Kami Garcia is a former teacher, reading specialist, education therapist, young adult novelist, and graphic novel author. She is often asked by parents whether they should let their kids read graphic novels instead of "real" books. Her answer is a resounding YES, and she shares five reasons why.
Most children and teens are capable of understanding and discussing reading material above their independent reading level. As parents, we see this in action when we read a picture book like "The Three Little Pigs" to a kindergartner or first grader. By the end of the story, most children can tell us what happened to the pigs and the wolf, even if they can only read a few of the words. “The combination of words and images in comics and graphic novels provide an opportunity for scaffolding for some readers and also a new modality that interests and attracts more capable readers,” explains educational researcher G. Yang. “When kids read enjoyable, complex, and compelling stories, they are motivated to read more, so graphic novels can be great stepping stones to longer text works.”
A child’s reading proficiency is not an indicator of intelligence, yet struggling readers are often given easier books that tend to have less complicated or meaty plot lines. The result? Less skilled readers don’t have a chance to flex their intellectual muscles and discuss complex issues, themes and characters. That’s why Kyle Redford of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity refers to graphic novels as “the grand equalizers” because they “invite all levels of readers into reading conversations. Since everyone can read graphic novels, everyone can talk about them.”
Reading a graphic novel involves more than just making sense of the words on the page and looking at art that complements the words. The art actually tells part of the story. So the reader has to decode and comprehend the text, the images, and the relationship between the two, which requires critical thinking skills such as drawing conclusions and making inferences. But that is good news, according to educational researcher P.E. Griffith, because “processing text and images together leads to better recall and transfer of learning. With graphic novels, students not only learn the material faster, they learn it better.”
Images are powerful. If you've ever watched a heartbreaking Humane Society commercial and found yourself on the verge of tears, you understand what I’m talking about. The art in graphic novels makes it easier for readers to relate to the characters and imagine how it would feel to be in a similar situation, which builds empathy. The unique format also provides a way to “expose injustice and examine complex social issues, much like young adult novels do,” explains educational researcher J.B. Carter.
Studies show that graphic novels are a preferred format for both boys and girls, and for both struggling and skilled readers, which contradicts the myth that graphic novels are primarily for boys and children who “aren’t good readers.” Educational researcher B. Edwards also discovered that middle school students who weren’t interested in reading were more likely to read graphic novels, because they enjoyed the format and felt they could challenge themselves more.
So parents, the next time your kids ask to check out graphic novels at the library, just say yes . . . and feel good about it!
This information is taken from an article by TODAY Show contributor Kami Garcia. You can find the full article here.