Do you consider comics credible reading?
Do you see comics as only for reluctant readers?
I strongly believe that comics and graphic novels count as credible reading materials and aren’t just for reluctant readers.
It started with my middle-school language-arts teacher mom who owned hundreds of comic books for her classroom; comics like Archie, Spiderman, Tintin, and classics. My mom believed that reading is reading. She went to the ends of the earth to provide her students with every possible option in reading material, comic books included. Which, of course, worked to get her students reading.
Comics can be the variety children need and not just for reluctant readers. Of course, if comics get a reluctant reader reading, like in this story about Rose written by her mom, author Victoria Hanley, great!
But first . . .
What Is a Comic, a Graphic Novel, and a Manga?
So let’s define terms — comic, graphic novel, and manga — before we continue.
“Comics, like music, are a medium. The graphic novel is a format used to deliver the medium, like a cd is a format for delivering music. A graphic novel is just a longer format comic book,” explains John Shableski aka The Graphic Novels Guy, and my go-to source for everything comic.
He elaborates, “The term graphic novel is really a misnomer. Graphic implies art and the word novel adds even more confusion. People are often confused by the use of the word graphic because they think it implies pornography. Now we can use terms like graphic nonfiction, graphic fiction, graphic mysteries etc. to describe the many genres within the comics story telling world.”
“Manga is the Japanese term for describing the comics medium. For adults, it is a challenge as it reads backwards, or right to left. Kids of any reading level have an amazing ability to adapt to the format. Part of it is due to the fascination with the stories, and the other is because most adults can’t read it,” explains Shableski.
But why should you care?
8 Reasons to Let Your Kids Read Comic Books
1. Comic books are fun to read. Why does reading have to be miserable? It doesn’t. Which is why I love to read YA because it’s fun. I love reading literature (my major in undergrad) but it’s not always fun.
2. Comic books contain the same story elements and literary devices as narrative stories — characters, conflict, resolution, setting, symbolism, theme, point of view, and so forth.
3. Comic books provide built-in context clues. Because comics are visual, even if the text is difficult, the visuals give the reader support in comprehending the story.
4. Reading a comic book is a different process of reading using a lot of inference. With a comic, readers must rely on the dialogue and the illustrations. The reader must infer what is not written out by a narrator, a complex reading strategy.
5. Readers need variety in their reading diet.
6. We’re a visual culture and the visual sequence of comic books makes sense to kids. (See Marc Prensky’s research on Digital Natives.)
7. Reading comic books may lead to drawing and writing comics. Linking reading and writing is important. Comic book creation is particularly enticing for kids who prefer drawing to writing normally but will make exceptions for dialogue bubbles.
8. The selection of comic books / graphic novels is bigger, better, and reaches a wider age-range than before. Every month more comic books and graphic novels enter the market for younger readers and provide more good choices from which to pick.
Parent and Teacher Resources
Why comic books are good for kids from Parent Map.
Scholastic’s publication on using graphic novels with children and teens.
This article at the Graphic Novel Reporter gives advice for using comics with your children.
High school English teachers have a ning about using graphic novels in the classroom.
Interview with author, Kate Monnin, about teaching with graphic novels.
Comic Book Classroom website.
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