I have two daughters and personality wise they are two very different girls. My older daughter has always loved to read and is interested in a variety of genres; from biographies to fantasy she can find something she likes and keeps her engaged in her reading.
My younger daughter has never really been attracted to books or stories, that is up until this week. A magical thing happened in my house this week she found a book she LOVES. When she came out of her sister’s room carrying some larger chapter books I wondered what she was doing, but honestly we are at the point in the summer where I didn’t even ask I assumed it was props for game she was playing or weights for a fort. A little while later I found her totally engrossed in the book; looking from left to right, top to bottom just like a normal reader. She is only 5 and can’t read many words so I was curious of what exactly it was she was doing. So I quietly and casually tried to sneak by, if she knew I was pleased with her even pretending to read the book would be thrown to the side without a second thought. When I caught a peek of what she was doing I realized she had found my older daughter’s graphic novels. The whole story is told through comic book like pictures and dialogue. No she couldn’t read most of the dialogue but she could see the pictures.
I wasn’t exactly convinced she was able to comprehend the story just from the pictures until I started asking her some questions. She nailed them! She knew the story was about a family with two sisters, they were going on a camping trip, the sisters were packing. I asked how she knew all of these things and she went back and showed me the pictures that went with each detail. She was so proud of herself, and she declared she loves these books what are they called? I told her graphic novels and she asked if she could go back into her sister’s room and look for more.
Of course her sister was not interested in having her dig through her book shelf so she started asking her questions to see if she REALLY understood the book. Then they started discussing the characters and the story line. I sat there in awe, first a little sad that my youngest was growing up, and second that my girls were talking to each other like friends over a book.
I was surprised I hadn’t spent much time as an educator thinking about all of the benefits graphic novels can bring to young and struggling readers. The graphic novel can help them work on parts of a story, it can give them a door into the world of reading where they can feel confident. When I searched online I found many more great graphic novels for kids, some are ones that are popular today like; Big Nate by Lincoln Pierce, Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey, or Smile by Raina Telgemeier.
And some were classics that I had read as a kid and were now being introduced as a graphic novel; The Boxcar Children, The BabySitters Club, The Hardy Boys, and many others.
Every child is different maybe graphic novels will light a reading fire for your kids, maybe it will be a National Geographic Magazine whatever it is I hope they find it this summer.