Graphic Novel Love

Graphic Novel Love

I want to take a moment and reflect on graphic novels. I began my journey as a teacher six years ago and immediately was introduced to Big Nate and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I immediately frowned upon these books. I saw them as too immature for my sixth graders. They were too easy. These books did not inspire my students.

So I thought.

Four years later, I had a group of students who were obsessed with Raina Telgemeier. I had a lot of readers who would only read a graphic novel. What was so appealing with these books? Was this reading? Were these books powerful? I had to find out for myself. So, over Christmas break I picked up Sisters. I DEVOURED that book! I carried my Kindle EVERYWHERE and in one day, had the book finished and my mind was changed.

You see, originally I had thought these “comic books” were just for fun. They had little meaning. They were for my students who struggled finding books and staying focused. I was okay with them reading these books, but I would limit them. I would only “count” the books as half towards their reading goal because of the pictures. I did not place value on the pictures. The worst thing I did was judge before ever reading them or talking with my students on why they liked these books. I just assumed, which is not what a teacher should do.

After finishing Sisters, my graphic novel obsession slowly began to take shape. I picked up El Deafo by Cece Bell and that is the moment I saw that these books can do so much. This is a memoir, full of life lessons, reflections, struggles, and it is hilarious. It is still the number one book I recommend to all readers.

See what I said there? All readers. As I read more and more graphic novels, I realized that although emerging readers may gravitate towards these books because they are less intimidating with their pictures and short text, they are for all readers. Growing readers and established readers can gain valuable reading experiences from a graphic novel. Reading a book full of dialogue and little written description is not easy. Balancing visuals and text is difficult. The way it all comes together to make a powerful book is absolutely amazing and beneficial to all levels of readers.

I could attach some research-based data to support my feelings on graphic novels, but I think the power lies in experiencing it for yourself. If you have not discovered graphic novels, go to the library and check some out. There are books for kids to adults. There are fantasy books, memoirs, nonfiction, superheroes, and books with little to no words at all. There is such variety and beauty out there.

Comment your favorite graphic novels or other thoughts on this topic. Thank you for reading.

I am a middle school English Language Arts and Social Studies teacher.

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