In previous posts, (found here and here) I’ve discussed my love of audiobooks. But I also love another non-traditional format: graphic novels. As stated by Robin A. Moeller and Kim Becnel, “Images have the power to make something more real, more visceral, and more representational.” For me, the images elevate the story to a new level. In many cases, the art presented with the text provides a deeper context to the words. Graphic novels feature rich storytelling elements and plots, and are able to convey a deeper meaning through the artwork while leaving things unspoken in the dialog.

I also appreciate the variety of art styles used by the illustrators. Some graphic novels are action-packed, with lots of motion and a wide array of flashy colors. Others take a more subtle approach, with muted tones, monochrome color schemes, or simple sketches. No matter what style is used, it will convey the story in a way text alone cannot.

Not only are graphic novels entertaining for teens and readers of any other age, they also offer a number of benefits. These include making texts more accessible, engaging reluctant readers, assisting struggling readers, and providing diversity. (More on this last point in a later post.)

NEW LEASE ON LIFE

Did you know many of the classics are being adapted into graphic novels? Titles including Jane Eyre, Beowulf, and The Odyssey can all be found laid out in sequential art. Works by Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, and many others have also been adapted.

These titles are too often seen as musty old things that teachers force their students to read. A graphic novel adaptation provides a golden opportunity for teachers and students to experience the literature in a new and exciting way. Graphic novels can serve as a bridge between classic literature and a more relatable story. One example is to pair The Scarlett Letter with Smile. As Melanie English states in her article, “both titles are centered on female protagonists feeling alienated, which a lot of tween and teen girls can relate to.”

I HATE READING . . . OOOH, NEW SPIDER-MAN!

Cover of Miles Morales: Spider-man

Not every teen likes to read. As painful as that is for a librarian to admit, it is true. Still, librarians are an ever-optimistic bunch and are always striving to encourage reading and literacy in our communities. The only way to improve literacy is to read. Graphic novels can help.

Articles from Scholastic, Literacy and Language Center, Healthy Teen Network, and EBSCO Post all agree that reluctant readers are drawn into the format, and have a deeper connection with the story than they would otherwise have with traditional literature. Reluctant readers who skim through the books as fast as possible also tend to slow down and enjoy the graphics.

A LITTLE HELP, PLEASE!

Teens who struggle with reading due to a learning or developmental disability can also benefit from graphic novels, as one study found. Of the 20 students sampled, 16 reported that the illustrations helped them better understand the plot easier and that they enjoyed reading them. Teens with autism can learn to better identify emotions using graphic novels. The illustrations help provide context to the text, expresses emotion and mood, and are capable of conveying at least a portion of the story without text.

The benefits continue for English Language Learners. A teen learning a new language does not want to read a picture book. That would be embarrassing. But their language comprehension may not be high enough to read a traditional book in the language. Graphic novels provide a solution. Graphic novels are popular among teens, so a student learning a language can comfortably read a graphic novel to build their language skills, relying on the images to help build context.

“GRAPHIC” MEANS PICTURES, NOT MATURE CONTENT

One final note: some still claim that graphic novels contain excessive violence and other mature content. While this is true for some graphic novels, it is not the rule or even the norm. The term “graphic” only refers to the sequential art format of the book, not the maturity level of the content.

There is no standard rating system for graphic novels like there is for movies; however, publishers often use their own. If you would like to learn more, DC and Marvel use these systems. Manga publishers often use a system similar to Yen Press. I also recommend Common Sense Media. If you’re concerned, check the back cover or title page for a rating, thumb through the book, or ask your friendly librarian.

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

We have hundreds of graphic novels for teens in our collection, and new ones are added all the time. Here is a little sample of what we offer.

Fantasy / Sci-Fi

Romance

Action / Superheroes

Historical Fiction

Adaptations

Non-Fiction

Morgan Gariepy, Teen Librarian

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