What's So Great About Graphic Novels? So Much!

Posted by Christine McDaniels and Andrea Savage on 2/5/15 2:30 PM

“ Comics are a gateway drug to literacy.” —Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus: A Survivor's Tale

Graphic novels have been described as “sequential art”—a series of illustrations which, when viewed in order, tell a story. Some adults and educators grapple with whether graphic novels or comics-based novels are appropriate texts for young, reluctant, and emerging readers. They wonder whether these types of books help or hinder children as they learn to read. And, some “naysayers” even question if graphic novels provide a sound reading experience. 


This reading specialist and librarian are here to say that a graphic novel may be the perfect reading choice for young, reluctant, AND emerging readers!

Graphic novels promote literacy, but the most powerful aspect of graphic novels is that they attract kids and motivate them to read. Here’s why:

  • CHOICE:  There is a growing body of graphic novels that are suitable and appealing for all ages and reading abilities. There’s something for everyone.
  • FUN:  Graphic novels often have short, enticing titles that highlight appealing characters and storylines. Many of the stories are part of a series, so once readers finish one book, there is still more to read.
  • FORMAT:  The format of a graphic novel merges words with pictures and encourages the reader to employ significant reading strategies as they navigate the pages. Graphic novels present many pictures to guide a child's decoding skills. Readers may not get every word, but they are able to understand the story with the help of pictures. Graphic novels also lead to great fluency work: engaging scenarios motivate children to practice their intonation. Readers will often read a text over and over because they enjoy taking on the role of favorite character or reading action words like, "BAM!"
  • COOL: Graphic novels are really popular. The circulation statistics at our very own library prove it!

We Recommend

Here are just a few graphic novel suggestions for children Kindergarten through 2nd grade:

  • Otto’s Backwards Day, by Frank Cammuso with Jay Lynch
  • Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas! by Philippe Coudray
  • Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking, by Philippe Coudray
  • Stinky, by Eleanor Davis
  • Hocus Pocus, by Sylvie Desrosiers and Remy Simard
  • Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists, ed. Chris Duffy
  • Benny and Penny in Just Pretend, by Geoffrey Hayes
  • Patrick: A Teddy Bear’s Picnic and Other Stories, by Geoffrey Hayes
  • Frog and Fly: Six Slurpy Stories, by Jeff Mack
  • Little Mouse Gets Ready, by Jeff Smith 
  • Binky the Space Cat series, by Ashley Spires
  • Ball, by Mary Sullivan

Learn More

“Convincing the Naysayers: Why Graphic Novels Deserve a Place in the School Library,” by Robin A. Moeller (Knowledge Quest, Volume 41, No. 3)

“More Ways to Pitch Graphic Novels” by John Schumacher (Reading Today Online, August 2014)

Looking for a school for your child?

Lowell School is an independent school in the Colonial Village neighborhood of Washington, DC, that offers Pre-Primary, Primary, and Middle School programs. It offers a rigorous and hands-on curriculum that nurtures each child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn, and supports the development of individual voice and self-reliance. For more information, please call 202-577-2000, email admissions@lowellschool.org, or follow Lowell on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Topics: Reading and Books

Christine McDaniels and Andrea Savage

Written by Christine McDaniels and Andrea Savage

Christine McDaniels is Lowell School's Pre-Primary and Primary School librarian and Andrea Savage is a reading specialist.