Lately, I’ve interviewed several authors that mentioned comics as a source for their childhood (and probably adult, too) reading pleasure and creativity. Quite coincidentally, I also read that comics are a great resource for parents who struggle with reluctant readers. Then, when a recent trip to the library and a graphic novel display, as well as my youngest daughter’s obsession with having graphic novels read to her, really got me thinking, I decided to put a post together. I can’t believe what books for children are available now as graphic novels. Not only are children investing in words by reading graphic novels, but they are also enjoying visual art and adventure right at their fingertips!
As a kid, I loved buying comics. Yeah, I know, I’m a girrrrl…but hey, we can love comics and graphic novels too! And I wasn’t a dork (as far as I say), so yeah, I’m not ashamed to declare that girls who love make-up and red lipstick can still love comics (I hear my fiance yelling, right on girl….)!
Flashback to Archie and My Childhood
Back when I was a kid we picked up Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica….those little magazine-sized comics at the grocery store. They’ve been around since the 1950s or so, but I wasn’t around till 1974 so I only remember reading in the 80s. Of course, they still make the Archie comics, and many other media arose from Archie over the years, but personally I remember my child-like eyes being big on the racks by the check-out and my mom always buying me one for the ride home. However, my kids certainly aren’t bringing me an Archie mag and a block of Bazooka gum (which was hard as a rock, BTW!!). It was fun then, but for our kids times have changed.
Getting my Marvel Fix
As an older teen, I became even more bold and couldn’t wait to get to the comic store (then on almost any side street) and pick-up my next issues of The Amazing Spiderman and, my favorite of the early 90’s, Spawn. Then X-Men, Avengers, Thor (oh, little Marvel heavy, sorry)…who could go wrong with all that luscious colorized art that oozed with visual goodness and exciting reading.
What Happened to Comics?
With a busy career and getting even busier as a mom, my comic reading went out the window, as well as purchasing. And I guess I wasn’t the only one, as in the last decade comic sales have plummeted. At $5 a pop for a few pages, it just wasn’t feasible for most people anymore to go every week and buy a whole stack, and with too many favorites, it became even harder to choose! Die-hard collectors still bought, but now most kids are enticed by a million other things put out every day in this electronic world.
The Graphic Novel On the Rise
Graphic novels, on the other hand, are entirely different. Sales of these in most beloved comic lines like Spiderman, X-Men, Superman and so forth increased. I think people feel they get more for their money. In a 2011 article by Comics Alliance (www.comicsalliance.com), they stated that graphic novel sales are up 3% for the year, though sales in comic shops are down. This was due to the growth of graphic novels in bookstores, which is a great sign for the comic industry. Sales of periodical single issues fell 8%, in comparison, and Manga 15 to 20%. However, digital comic sales have doubled since 2010. So maybe it is the comic store that is dead and not really the comic industry? Let’s hope.
So, Why Are Graphic Novels Great For Your Children?
Now on to my main point of this blog, comics and graphic novels are great for kids. And graphic novels seems to be on the rise. Boys and girls between the ages 9-12 are most suited for graphic novels and they are a great resource for parents who have reluctant or struggling readers. Instead of hundreds of pages full of just words, suddenly there are amazing visuals with words to go with them. The writing and vocabulary are still on par, and even advanced, yet the child is more excited to read and propelled by the art.
Manga, which is Japanese for comics and are Japanese in origin, are wonderful also as the vocabulary is on a high-level for an advanced reader, or are able to challenge average readers in an environment that is more conducive to their learning. Because they are graphic, they are more quickly understood and absorbed as kids are naturally visual learners.
With some of the graphic novels or comic compilations, they can also offer smaller doses of reading if that is easier for the attention span of a child. There is a ton of action on each page for them to look at, while the writing is still superb. I even found that my 4-year-old daughter is very into graphic novels. We started with some Scooby-Doo graphic novel compilations. There is one main comic short that it’s titled from, but there are usually two to three comic stories in the book. We can read one at a time, or all three if she is feeling more focused. She loves looking at the pictures as I read the story.
Recently at the library, we have been picking up more graphic novels and I am amazed at how many chapter books (those books familiar to my seven-year old) have been turned into a graphic novel or have a graphic novel spin-off! What a great way to entice reluctant readers to read an actual chapter book. If they enjoy the comic version first, maybe they will try the other books. If they enjoy books, they might compliment by enjoying the graphic version and be entertained by the art. It is a win-win both ways.
We just found a series of Geronimo Stilton graphic novels (Geronimo Stilton is a mouse with a fun children’s book series for 8 to 16 year olds). My four-year old recognized the famous mouse from my seven-year old’s chapter book browsing and wanted to get the graphic novel Geronimo Stilton: The Secret of the Sphinx right away! She loved it. Now she can be part of the story through the photos and she is learning history too. There is great writing in these graphic novels that is both entertaining and educational. However, I think it reads much better if you do funny voices and yell all the crazy sound effects. As a parent, let yourself go and get into reading the story.
We’ve seen graphic novels which also accompany popular Young Adult (YA) novels as well. For instance, The Amulet of Samarkand: A Bartimaeus Graphic Novel, which was adapted from Jonathan Stroud’s best-selling Bartimaeus series book one, The Amulet of Samarkand. I’m halfway through this one and loving the visuals. You can download the First Chapter on from the publisher’s website at http://disney.go.com/official-sites/bartimaeus-series/graphic-novel-amulet-of-samarkand-page-1.
Now even classics are being re-told in this format to get a kid’s brain to absorb these monumental novels that might otherwise be destined for Cliff Notes. For instance, you’ll find Beowulf, The Iliad, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, and many more. We even saw the famous French tale called The Little Prince adapted into an artistic graphic novel.
Even though we don’t have reluctant readers in our household and are blessed with three avid readers just like we are, we’re loving the advantages of graphic novels to accompany our two older children’s reading list, as well as helping our youngest daughter to read.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on comics and graphic novels! Do you like this trend? What are your favorite comics of all time? Found any new graphic novels for kids you’d love to share? Please share your comments with everyone below.