Children’s author and father of two Tom Fletcher has acknowledged this in his very first book club, by including the graphic novel Dog Man by Dav Pilkey. In his review for kids, he says, ‘Now, let’s be honest, reading a book can be hard sometimes and some are just snorefests. SO, if you want to feel smart and tell all your mates that you read a proper book all you have to do is look at these awesome drawings about a half-dog, half-man super cop and enjoy the genius that is DOG MAN. You’re welcome!’
Lots of things can make kids reluctant to read, from reading books that are too advanced or boring, to struggling with a learning difficulty such as dyslexia. But taking a different approach can make a world of difference. And if you’re worried that graphic novels aren’t as educational as story books, then you might be surprised to hear that many experts believe them to be just as challenging as alphabetic works and recommend children of all reading abilities and tastes to pick them up. In fact, research has shown that reading comic books has no negative impact on school achievement or language acquisition. It’s a win-win situation; not only can graphic novels and comic books give children more motivation and confidence to pick up a book, but they can also sneakily improve little ones’ vocabulary, use of direct speech, narrative, concentration and more!
A Letter to Readers by Dav Pilkey (creator of Dog Man)
Top tips to get the most from reading graphic novels with your child
Many Key Stage 2 children may prefer to read alone, especially if you’ve convinced them that graphic novels are just a fun activity and there’s nothing educational about them at all (huzzah!) But showing an interest in their new hobby may encourage them to keep it up, and give you opportunities to steer them towards more academic questions. It’s up to you to gauge how involved in their reading you should be, but anything from a 5 minute “what are you reading at the moment?” conversation to 20 minutes of reading together can be beneficial!
Here are just a few tips to help your little one get them most from their graphic novels and comic books:
- Take your time and encourage your child to look at all the elements on the page. There are lots of cues to the story to explore, so treat the graphics with the same interest as the text, and keep it fun! If your child is struggling to interpret the cues or has missed a crucial part of the story then don’t be afraid to prompt them, but don’t let them feel bad. They’ll soon pick up on different things to look out for.
- For starters, how has the text been presented? Are any of the words different colours? Are some words bigger or smaller or thicker or thinner than others? Why do you think that is? How does it change how we read it? Could it mean that the character is shouting? Or that they’re emphasising a word because it’s important or funny or scary? Try to work out why the author has made certain words different and what effect this has on the story.
- Are there any sound effects or motion lines? What do they indicate? Is the character jumping or running or dancing? Are they jumping with fear or surprise or excitement?
- What can we learn from how the characters look? Can you work out who is the hero and who is the villain just from looking at them? How can you tell? Is it what they’re wearing? Or how they’re standing? Or what they’re doing? Can you work out what emotions the characters are feeling just from their faces? Why might they feel that way after what happened on the previous page?
- Try covering the text with sticky notes and let your child guess what the characters might be saying. This is your chance to be silly and imaginative so don’t take it too seriously. When you’ve finished guessing, check to see if you were right. If yes, how did you guess? If no, compare your guess to the text. Was yours funnier than the text? Was yours more surprising?
- What style does the illustrator have? How is it different from other graphic novels you’ve read? Is it more simple? More cheeky? Complex? Detailed? Is it more colourful? Is it easier to read the characters’ emotions? Does the illustrator’s style match the story?
- Have fun!! The biggest advantage that graphic novels have is that they’re way more fun than those boring books teachers are trying to make kids read. So don’t suck all the fun out by making reading them feel like school. Laugh loud, take breaks, go off topic, spends loads of time looking at the images and don’t let things get frustrating.
If you’ve been there and done it already then share your advice for using graphic novels and comic books with other parents in the comments box below.