Graphic Novels 101 for Parents

July 23, 2011 | Scott

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Kid-boy-reading-comics-in-torch-light-in-bedSummer reading is a great time for kids to relax and read stories they enjoy. More often than not, I’ve seen kids with their noses buried in their favourite graphic novel or comic book. Now before you start saying that comics aren’t real reading or that they’re often inappropriate for children (or even if you already are a supporter of graphic books), please read on.

First, here are the terms you need to know to effectively understand and engage the reading of graphic books with your child:

Panel – squares or rectangles on a page that contain a moment of the story
Gutter – the space between panels
Word balloons – contains the speech or thoughts of a character
Captions – contain information about what’s happening in the panel or about a character
Sound effects – visual representation of sounds in a panel like POW! or BAM!

The ‘graphic’ in graphic books refers to their visual nature and is not a blanket term for sex and violence.  In 2010, the number of available books in the children’s graphic novel category increased by 67%. And lucky for avid readers of these, there’s now a huge selection to choose from.

This selection includes:

Graphic novels for the very young, like Toon Books, feature only a few words and a few panels per page
Graphic novels for early readers, like Babymouse and Lunch Lady, feature simple stories, strong single characters, fun and humour
Graphic novels for independent readers include a wide range of stories and art styles and feature genres like nonfiction (Edu-Manga: Anne Frank), fantasy (Amulet), mystery (Secret Science Alliance) and humour (Tiny Tyrant)

Many of the traditional biases towards graphic novels being ‘junk’ reading have been dispelled by literacy professionals and educators who have determined great value in engaging with these books.

Graphic novels for children…
-          engage reluctant or at-risk readers
-          sharpen visual literacy skills
-          aid in developing skills of inferring and predicting
-          provide kids with an understanding of story sequence
-          provide scaffolding for children to understand advanced vocabulary and themes
-          connect children to other literature

Toronto Public Library has an amazing selection of graphic novels for children so be sure to visit your local branch and check them out!