August 31, 2017

Steal this idea: Use graphic novels to get kids reading

No one can deny that graphic novels are gaining momentum in libraries and schools. The format is no longer limited to superhero and newspaper comics, and their quality and variety continue to grow. While using graphic novels (a heavily illustrated format with little text) may seem counterproductive to promoting reading, they may be just the springboard you need to reach those reluctant readers.

Jesse Karp, early childhood and interdivisional librarian at the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York City, stated in a School Library Journal article, “[Graphic novels] reinforce left-to-right sequence like nothing else. The images scaffold word/sentence comprehension and a deeper interpretation of the words and story. The relative speed and immediate enjoyment build great confidence in new readers.”

A few of the many other benefits of reading graphic novels, as cited by Meryl Jaffe, an instructor at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, Online Division, in the same SLJ article are:

  • Using illustrations to decode difficult words;
  • Creating new memory associations based on image/language pairings;
  • Demonstrating more concise language use.

These are just a handful of the many reasons graphic novels can be valuable to your students. We all know the “visual” learners or those who are learning English-as-a-second-language and these illustrations are vital aids understanding and interpreting the text.

So what is the best way to select graphic novels that will be interesting to reluctant readers while providing valuable information to bring them more success?

Graphic novels and the classics

If readers are struggling with the classics, many have been adapted to the graphic novel format. To find those titles in NoveList, go to advanced search or try these field code searches. As a starting point, type GN Graphic novels AND GN Classics into the search box.

Note that this search will also pull in books classified as Classics-inspired fiction; to remove those from your results, search (GN Graphic novels AND GN Classics) NOT GN Classics-inspired fiction. GN searches a specific genre. You can learn more about NoveList genres in our downloadable A Guide to Genres and Book Discovery.

Graphic novels by age and reading level

If you want to be sure the books are appropriate for a specific age, there are several ways to search. First, you can search by audience level. To find graphic novels for younger kids using field codes, search GN Graphic novels AND RL 8. RL 8 is the field code to search for books for ages 0-8.

You also have the ability to search by the Lexile or Accelerated Reader code. To find graphic novels within the Lexile range 400-600, search GN Graphic novels AND LX > 400 AND LX < 600.

For books with an Accelerated Reader level of 2.5, search GN Graphic novels AND RD 2.5.

Grade level searching is also available. Searching for books with a grade level of 3-5 in field codes looks like this GN Graphic novels AND (MG 3 OR XG 5).

For more information on how to search for graphic novels and “just right” books in NoveList, check out our list of search strategy handouts and our video of searching for “just right” books.

Graphic novels and appeal terms

Remember -- we add appeal to graphic novels, too! You can learn more about illustration appeal terms from our guide, The Secret Language of Books. For example, if you know your patron is attracted to simple illustrations, try searching GN Graphic novels AND Big and bold.

Graphic novels by genre

NoveList has also created specific genres for graphic novels to help librarians and readers. Historical comics, Biographical comics, and Humorous comics are just a few. To find a specific genre limited to a specific age group, search GN Historical comics AND RL 4.

If you are asked for manga (Japanese graphic novels, typically reading right to left), you can search for that format, but also consider introducing your teen (and adult!) patrons to Light novels. Light novels are short novels, usually of Japanese origin, that are interspersed with manga-style illustrations. Occasionally, light novels are adapted into manga, so that may peak your readers’ interest. To find teen Light novels in NoveList, search GN Light novels AND RL 2.

Looking for more information? Check out our blog posts on graphic novels and comics and light novels. You may be surprised by your patrons’ overall interest in reading once they’ve discovered graphic novels. 

Suzanne Temple is a Metadata Librarian at NoveList. 

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