#RaisingReaders Monday: Reading with Kids Gets Graphic

Hi all! Look familiar to some of you? In honor of FREE COMIC BOOK DAY, Saturday, May 2nd, 2015, I’m sharing this earlier post about reading graphic novels and comics with kids.

frabz-Tomorrow-Is-New-Comic-Book-Day-You-Say-Im-There-589f34Full Disclosure: I am not remotely an authority on comics or graphic novels. Despite my early and lasting love of science fiction, fantasy, and other things traditionally classified as “geek”  (like late-night Risk competitions and the word-for-word recitation of Monty Python sketches) I’m pretty sure I’ve never owned a comic or walked into a comic book store. I may be suffering geek guilt right now, thinking about that. But,you see,  I was also a book snob, and pretty prejudiced against reading material with pictures.

What a mistake! In recent years, comics and graphic novels have made huge strides, going from simply geek to super geek-chic and finally hitting their stride as a widely recognized (and awarded) form of both art and literature.

(If you need a primer on the difference between comic strips, comics and graphic novels, BabyMouse – whose graphic novels are a big hit with my daughters – has got you covered. Click on over to learn more in kid-friendly terms.)

While some still argue that comics and graphic novels aren’t “good” or “legitimate” reading materials for kids, it is a dwindling group. More and more teachers, librarians, and parents are on board with using this genre as a way to excite and motivate young readers. After all – what are comics but a well-choreographed combination of pictures and text? With pictures and text, readers can learn anything!! Comic readers can tackle difficult vocabulary thanks to the support of illustrations. They are motivated to stick with stories longer thanks to the “fun” component. And the content in comics and graphic novels keeps expanding, diversifying and improving.

If you have reluctant readers in the house, the comic boom is welcome news. If you have avid readers, fantasy-lovers, super-hero obsessed boys or mighty girls, it is great news. There is just no way to not be excited about this.(Am I selling this too hard? Thinking about it…. nope.)

Not convinced? Rewind to last Monday, February 2nd, at the American Library Association Youth Media Awards.

This One Summer, a gorgeous, intricate, coming-of-age story in graphic novel form, received two distinct and impressive honors. The author/illustrator team of Jillian and Mariko Tamaki earned both a Caldecott Honor for illustration and a Printz Honor for literary excellence for young adult literature! The awarding of these two honors to a graphic novel is surely a sign of the new level of respect and notice the genre is receiving. (For more about This One Summer, check out this great interview from Paste.com)

Add to that the wonderful news that CeCe Bell’s autobiographical novel El Deafo – another graphic novel standout – received a 2015 Newbery Honor, and you can see why the children’s literature world is abuzz. (For more on CeCe Bell and this stand-out book, head over to Mr. Schu Reads.)

from El Deafo by CeCe Bell

Parents, teachers, librarians, and people with heads all over America are probably familiar with such super-selling graphic novel series as Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce. These are amazing books that kids can’t get enough of. But there is a whole world out there of comics and graphic novels that will excite, entertain, and educate kids.

There are comics about dogs and mice, space cats, firefighters, camp-outs, race cars, unicorns and cave men. There are deep dark mysteries and hilarious adventures. There’s even a Magic Pickle.

Book cover:Magic Pickle

If you’re concerned about content in comics and graphic novels, I recommend talking with your school or children’s librarian. You can also check out this great book, Getting Graphic: Comics for Kids by  Michele Gorman.  The author does a great job of sorting a variety of contemporary cocomics for kidsmics by age level, content, and interest. It’s a great reference to help you choose and suggest comics and graphic novels to your school-age children.

Looking for more? Check out this great post on atyourlibrary.org that lists “the best of the best” graphic novels by age group (K-2nd, 3-5th and 6-8th grades). The lists were developed as suggestions for libraries aiming to expand their graphic novel collections, so they represent a broad array of topics and styles.

I also love Paste’s 10 Great Comics for Adolescent Girls and Kirkus Reviews’ Great Graphic Novels for Middle School.

One last treat to sweeten the case for comics comes from the great people at the Children’s Book Council. They’ve recently announced that 2015 Children’s Book Week will kick off on May 2nd with Free Comic Book Day!


All across North America, comic book shops will be offering a selection of up to 50 titles – many kid friendly – just for dropping in. You can search for a participating store near you here.

So, parents, teachers and friends – what’s your take on comics and graphic novels for kids? Do your kids read them? What are your favorites? And will you be heading out on Free Comic Book Day to find something new and exciting to read? I can’t wait to read all your comments! Keep up the great work #RaisingReaders!