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Graphic Novels for Your Child

December, 2009
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"When I started reading graphic novels, I was struck by the fact that stories about Spider-man or Batman and Superman could have as many plot twists and turns as any story by Shakespeare, Stephen King or Leo TolstoyRob Weiner (Texas Tech Librarian and Comic Book Expert)

Parents and teachers are often concerned when their children read too many graphic novels or comics and I am frequently asked to recommend other types of reading materials. Whilst I am a strong advocate for as much variety as possible to introduce vocabulary and different writing styles, I am also an enthusiastic promoter of the power of the graphic novel.

Graphic novels are different from comics. Traditional comics are episodic stories which are published on a regular basis and often build on the previous story. Graphic novels are generally a more sophisticated narrative which uses pictures or graphics to convey the story. There are several different types of graphic novel:

Superhero stories – those involving popular characters like “Batman”, “Superman” etc.

Manga – a traditional Japanese art form printed in black and white, though some are now available in colour. Originally intended for an adult audience, popular examples of Manga include “Astro Boy” and the new “Manga Shakespeare” series.

Original Novel adaptations – series like “Nancy Drew”, the “Hardy Boys” and some of Agatha Christie’s classic novels have now been produced in graphic form.

Classic Graphics – “Asterix” and “Tintin” graphics have been around over 40 years and are currently experiencing a revival as graphic novels become more popular.

Non-fiction Graphics – these are not technically novels but are still narrative in nature and told in a pictorial form. Currently this is a growth area with some fabulous graphic biographies and series about environmental issues.

What’s so good about graphic novels?

In Michelle Gorman’s “Getting Graphic: Comics for kids” (Linworth Books, 2008) she outlines reasons why graphic novels are important.

They offer fast-paced action, conflict, and heroic endeavors – all things that young readers embrace. Children learn in different ways - visual learners are able to connect with graphic novels in a way that they cannot with text-only books. They require the readers to be active participants in the reading process, using their imagination to fill in the blanks. They help young readers develop strong language art skills including reading comprehension and vocabulary development. They contribute to literacy by ensuring kids continue to read for fun outside of the classroom. They often stimulate young readers to branch out and explore other genres of literature including fantasy, science fiction and non-fiction. . Also, they are a lot of fun and kids enjoy reading them!

According to Isabelle Baelde, one of our Secondary English teachers at WISS, “Graphic novels take you to imaginary lands and make you see them.”

As educators and parents we should encourage our children to read material that they find interesting and appealing and that inspire them to love reading irrespective of literary format.

How do you select a graphic novel for your child?

When selecting graphic novels you should follow much the same process as for any other type of book. Try to choose subjects they are interested in, have a look at a few pages and assess the age of the main characters – this is especially easy with graphics. If the main characters are teens or grown-ups, it is likely that the content is aimed at that age group, so perhaps not suitable for your 8 year old. 

Two websites which offer guidance are “Kid-Safe Graphic Novels for your readers”at http://www.graphicnovels.brodart.com/ and “Kids Love Comics” at http://kidslovecomics.com/index.html

Manga graphics have helpful ratings on the back cover.This is mainly because they are aimed at such a wide audience. The table below gives an outline of the manga ratings:

E – Everyone/A, All ages, suitable for readers from age 6 upwards. 

Y – Youth, Age 10+, title may contain mild violence and/or bad language.

T – Teens, Age 13+, title may include some sexual reference and/or violent action scenes.

OT – Older Teens, Age 16+, title may contain more explicit sexual content and some violent scenes.

M – Mature, Age 18+, strictly for adults

By Fiona Collins

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  1. February 17th, 2010 at 08:10 | #1