What are graphic novels? Are they “real” books or are they just comics? Are they good for kids? We hear these questions from parents all the time. And guess what? If your kiddo constantly has their nose in one of these illustrated stories, it’s actually a good thing. Maybe even (that’s right!) a great thing—for readers of all ages and skill levels.
What are Graphic Novels?
“Aren’t graphic novels just comic books?” Well, they certainly have a lot in common. They’re both visual-text blends, and they both engage kids with their big, bold illustrations and dialogue.
But while comics (traditionally) feature superheroes and action-packed plots, graphic novels are longer, use more textual narrative and cover a wider range of genres and subject matter (did you know there’s a graphic novel version of “Anne of Green Gables” on Epic?). They can be light and minimalistic like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Big Nate,” or dark and thrilling like “Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Witches #4.” And yup, they can even be action-packed comic-book style adventures featuring loveable heroes like “Cat Ninja.”
They may be different, but that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. They’re both fantastic tools for making reading fun for kids (and grownups!). Let’s zero in on graphic novels, though.
How do Graphic Novels Inspire Kids & Build Reading Skills?
There’s Power in Visuals
You know the old adage, “pictures speak a thousand words?” The same applies to graphic novels. Because these books are so visual, they convey mood and emotion in ways that draw the reader in more quickly, and in a way that’s more visceral and immersive than text alone.
Stories With Pictures Reach More Readers
Graphic novels also make complex stories and themes extra accessible to kids. Giving them a visual way to follow what they’re reading lets younger, reluctant and emerging readers “read upward” while also delighting and keeping more advanced readers interested.
A great example of this is Madeleine L’Engle’s sci-fi classic for middle graders, “A Wrinkle in Time.” The graphic novel version gives younger readers who aren’t ready for chapter books a way to enjoy it, and older kids and more advanced readers love it, too.
It Makes Learning Easier (& Fun)
Because text shares on-page real estate with illustrations, graphic novel creators choose each word more thoughtfully and deliberately. The little text bubbles you see in graphic novels and comics often include clear, digestible narration and dialogue that don’t overwhelm young readers, making this type of storytelling a powerful vocab builder.
It closes gaps in comprehension for kids who struggle to follow traditional books, too, and can be an incredibly useful tool for promoting social-emotional learning (SEL). Illustrations can convey emotions through visual cues that help kids empathize more easily with the characters, while inspiring creativity all at the same time.
We’ve had educators share so many inspiring success stories with us about students who’ve become more avid, confident readers in part by exploring graphic novels in class.
They Boost Reading Habits & Wellbeing
Most of all, they make kids happy! The quick pace can keep up with even the most high-energy readers. Kids who would normally think books are boring get a huge kick out of the sometimes fun, sometimes stunning, sometimes hilarious visuals. They get into the stories faster, stick around longer and understand (thus retain) more of what they’ve read. This helps lower anxiety, spark imagination, fuel more curiosity, build confidence and make them want to read more day to day.
There you have it! Have we succeeded in selling you on some of the amazing benefits of graphic novels for kids? Then get in on the fun with your kiddo and check out our collection of graphic novels (and comics!).