Graphic novels are stories written and illustrated in the style of a comic:

  • Vivid illustrations combine with short bursts of text, often presented  in a series of rectangular panels
  • The story unfolds in a clear sequence, and is often action-packed (and funny)

Graphic novels can be fiction (for example: historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, fairytales) or nonfiction (for example: history, biography, informational)

The main characters don’t have to be superheroes!

Graphic novels are widely accepted by youth librarians and teachers as books worth reading by kids of all ages and reading levels. Top children’s publishers now offer graphic novels that are high quality (with strong characters, vocabulary, and storylines) and appropriate for young readers.

How graphic novels help build children’s literacy skills

Reading motivation. Graphic novels are very popular, and especially appealing to readers who may not pick up a more traditional book on their own. They can be a “welcoming door” for reluctant or struggling readers (especially boys) who are drawn to the lively storylines and illustrations, and the smart but limited text. Quick, fun reads build confidence!

Visual literacy. The pictures in graphic novels are expressive, simple, and rich all at the same time. The images provide big clues about character and plot and encourage readers to look closely. Some graphic novels (such as Owly and The Adventures of Polo) are wordless, so the pictures must carry the full story.

Story structure. Most graphic novels for young readers have easy-to-follow plots. This can help children learn about how a story is stitched together. After sharing a graphic novel together, ask your child to tell you the basic plot of the story: “First this happened, then this ... and at the end …”

Word learning for struggling readers and English language learners.  Although individual words in a graphic novel can be sophisticated, the side-by-side Illustrations and text provide strong clues to their meaning.