Comics Newsletter

Annual Reminder that Graphic Novels are “Real” Reading

Molly Wetta

Staff Writer

Molly Wetta is a feminist Gemini vegetarian librarian. She is employed by a public library in a liberal Midwestern college town selecting young adult literature, media, and graphic novels while also managing the library's Twitter and Tumblr, which is fortunate, as her aspirations of being a professor of Buffy Studies didn't pan out. When not working, she is most likely reading existential Russian novels, regency romances, comics, queer YA, or cereal boxes. Sometimes she finds time to volunteer at her local domestic violence shelter or watch CW shows on Netflix with her cats: Spike, Angel, and Furiosa. Challenge her to a game of Candyland or Risk at your own peril, as she is a very competitive player of board games. Blog: Twitter: @molly_wetta

It’s time for Summer Reading Programs to kick off at libraries nationwide. When school is not in session, libraries are flooded with children and families looking for engaging activities to occupy their time, which is great! Because if students aren’t reading and participating in learning activities over the summer, they can lose a lot of the progress they made in the previous school year, which teachers and other educational professionals refer to as “summer slide.”

What’s great about informal learning outside the classroom is that children are free to pursue their own interests and select their own books! A whopping 92% of children say they are more likely to finish a book they pick out themselves versus one an adult forces them to read.

I love helping children select books they’re excited to read, and delight in finding them titles based on their own interests and reading tastes. However, without fail, I will encounter parents who are not allowing their children to read graphic novels, or are telling kids these “don’t count.”

My initial reaction is to go all President Bartlett on them.


Then I remember I am a professional and this is a learning opportunity for parents and caregivers, too! So I’ve developed some talking points to help parents get over their anti-comic bias. I also share this with my staff so they are better prepared should an adult try to deny a child from experiencing the wonderful world of graphic novels.

Why you should let kids read comics and graphic novels

Literary Merit of Comics and Graphic Novels for Kids

  • Often times, graphic novels contain higher level vocabulary words than print-only books for readers in the same age range, and are great for introducing children to new words.
  • Graphic novels are great for visual learners. They force readers to actively engage with the text to decipher the interplay between text and images and to decode the differences in text format that signal it as narration or dialogue. Readers must interpret facial expression of characters and body language instead of reading descriptions in the text that explain their moods and tone.
  • Graphic novels offer the opportunity to learn important reading skills, like inference. “Reading between the lines” of a text is often a tricky task, but readers who have experience with interpreting a story based on texts and images are actively developing this important skill.
  • Modern literacy means being fluent in a range of mediums, including the interpretation of images. Graphic novels prepare readers to comprehend a range of multimedia messages, which increasingly dominate our culture.
  • Graphic novels are also a great resource for children interested in art and design. Aspiring artists are exposed to the wide range of styles of the illustrations in graphic novels. Layout and formatting of graphic novels can teach teens good design skills and how the way the story is presented is integral to a reader’s understanding and enjoyment of it.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with encouraging children to read outside their comfort zone or select more challenging materials. But this doesn’t mean excluding graphic novels. Educating parents who are skeptical of the worth of graphic novels about the benefits of this format is a great way to advocate for children and their reading choices.

These lists can help you get started on recommending graphic novels to kids and families:


And, sometimes I even suggest graphic novels or comics for the parents to check out. Perhaps the best way to get over a bias against the format is to experience the magic of it for themselves.