Friday, October 4, 2019

Graphic Novels ARE Real Books

I recently had an interesting patron interaction. A mother came in with her 8 year old daughter and brought her up to the desk, where both my assistant and I were sitting. "My daughter doesn't much like reading," she said. "She only reads graphic novels, and I'm sure you'll both agree with me that those don't count as reading."

"Actually," we told her, "we agree with HER." After singing the praises of graphic novels - during which, the daughter's face lit up more and more! - the mother said, "okay! I guess I'm not always right." She let her daughter check out one graphic novel for each chapter book, which seemed like a win for them both.

Much like the debate about audio books being "cheating," I thought we might want to address the reasons why graphic novels are real, worthwhile, wonderful books.

They Are Not "Just" Comic Books

While comic books are valid in their own right, the graphic novel format is not just a "glorified comic book." Artwork is combined with narrative storytelling to create a cohesive piece of work wherein a story is told. They are not always superheroes saving the day the same way every single time; graphic novels can be any type of story, including biographies, retellings of classics, historical pieces, science fiction epics, and more! And also, of course, super heroes saving the day. (We love you, Lunch Lady!)

The Format Is Great for Reluctant Readers or Struggling Readers

There are a multitude of reasons!
  • The artwork reinforces the narrative, which helps struggling readers more clearly understand the context of the words, which aids in comprehension and gives a better foundation to decipher an unfamiliar piece of text.
  • The fast pace of graphic novels helps those who are reluctant to pick up a book, to keep reading. Especially for those who struggle to "get lost" in the printed word, it's easy to quickly get immersed in a story when you can see what's happening, which in turn will encourage readers to go back and read the words, and figure out the text they are missing.
  • Because space is so limited, every single word has been cultivated to have maximum impact. The language is carefully chosen to pair with the illustrations, meaning that there are no "meaningless" phrases. 
  • Graphic novels are excellent for visual learners. A reader who might not be able to remember something easily when reading of hearing the printed word can actually see what is going on, and as such may be more likely to learn and remember it.
  • For those who struggle to read body language, the graphic novel helps to reinforce what is easier seen than read about, in a format that can be studied frame by frame (as opposed to television or movies, which sometimes move too fast to analyze).
  • They have been proven to assist struggling readers with the foundations of literacy, such as sequencing, recall and memory, and critical thinking.
  • It also makes it easier to reinforce story elements, such as character, plot, and theme.
  • The format feels more relevant to many students, so giving reluctant or struggling readers the graphic novel of a Shakespearean play or a Jane Austen novel may help level the playing field with students who are able to read and comprehend the prose, which enables them to join in conversations about the plot.
  • Reading as a whole helps readers to empathize with other people, and helps people to create their own value system.

Graphic Novels are Great for Modern Literacy

The pairing of text and graphics dominates the online world in which we live. The ability to easily pair a few words with an image is crucial to understanding memes, which - while some may not find "important" - are vital to our modern cultural literacy. The graphic novel format helps to reinforce the ability to understand and appreciate this multimedia method of cultural exchange. 

Graphic novels also strengthen appreciation for the arts; each image is carefully created to look a certain way, and an appreciation for the reasons why each illustration is chosen to look that way is a valuable foundation in fine arts and even architecture.

There's More!

What did we miss? Let us know how you feel about graphic novels here in the comments, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.

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