The Power of Graphic Novels
Too often, people ignore the power and impact that graphic novels can bring to your classroom, but now more than ever they are the perfect addition to any library. Publishers are producing more of them than before and in the children’s sector, the quality has never been higher.
For the past five years, I have spent my time promoting graphic novels as an essential requirement for school libraries. Often, people assume I do this just because I love them and am on a mission to push my interests on my class. Despite my enjoyment of the format, my reasoning is much more simple; children love reading them.
There are lots of different theories and reasons why children love them but no matter what your own thoughts are, I can testify that children of all genders, ages and backgrounds have been able to access and enjoy graphic novels in my class. Not because I’ve made them, but because they liked the stories in them. Since I started investing heavily in the format and encouraging readers to try them, I have found them to be the most popular type of book in my classroom. Some of this is thanks to my extensive collection but it’s also because they contain brilliant stories that engage the reader, no matter what their reading ability is.
Who Reads Graphic Novels?
Too often, people assume it will only be ‘reluctant readers’ who like them or who should be allowed to read them but just like any other text type they are a valid reading option for anyone. In fact, in the past, I have found some of my ‘stronger’ readers have struggled to read them because they don’t possess the visual literacy skills. Being exposed to them helped them to develop this area and made them a more well-rounded reader. On the other end of the spectrum, children who struggle with reading or lack confidence often find the visual support reassuring and it can remove some of the fear that reading creates for them. At no point do I say only certain children can or can’t read them, the key is to simply make them an option like you would with poetry, non-fiction or a standard novel.
Vocabulary of Graphic Novels
Even after all this, people are often apprehensive about allowing children to just read graphic novels. Lack of words is usually the biggest concern; however graphic novels have been proven to contain higher-level vocabulary which is essential when trying to communicate ideas in less words. Authors have to choose their language carefully to make sure every word counts, so there may be less written words but the quality of them is often to a high standard. Of course, there are exceptions and not all will contain the vocabulary you seek, but plenty of novels don’t and we are happy for children to read them because it’s reading.
Stories That Cover Complex Issues
In addition to their extensive range of vocabulary, graphic novels often contain powerful emotional stories that teach readers excellent life lessons. Books such as Guts, Allergic, When Stars Are Scattered and Frankie’s World cover a vast range of topics such as anxiety, refugees, autism, medical issues, friendship & family struggles. They are superb for using in PSHE lessons and can prompt some phenomenal discussions.
Graphic Novels in the School
Recently, I have moved school and this has really put into perspective how many children have never been given the chance to read a quality range of graphic novels. At my previous school, I had become known for having a good collection and often lent them to children in other classes but in September I was just the bloke with a library in his classroom. Now my class have gone from having a quite poor relationship with reading to adoring it and seeking out as many opportunities as they can to read more. Despite having a decent selection of novels, non-fiction and poetry, the most popular books are always the graphic novels. They have devoured everything available and are constantly recommending and discussing them with their peers.
Since my arrival at the school, lots of other classes have started to complain because they don’t have the same access to graphic novels. We are currently investing heavily in them because the librarian is being inundated with requests for more. A lot of this has nothing to do with me but is all because my class are talking positively and sharing their love for the format. For World Book Day we will be working on graphic novels across the school. This is so every child can have a chance to experience them and work with them, for some it will be their first exposure to the format.
Give Children the Chance to Love Reading
Reading is a vital skill for children and being able to enjoy reading is an experience every child should be empowered with. For some they will love every book they come across but for other children, they need something different from the classics or usual books we promote. Graphic novels can be an excellent way to engage these readers and give them the chance they deserve to love reading.
For recommendations and examples of how to use graphic novels in the classroom: