Building Literacy with Graphic Novels for Young Children

graphic-novels-rights-clearedDo you have graphic novels in your collections? Do you include them in your picture book collection or do you think graphic novels are for older readers only? Just in time for National Picture Book Month, our reVIEWS+ Collections Editor Dr. Sylvia Vardell suggests that the line between the picture book and the graphic novel is blurring and, furthermore, that in this highly visual culture in which we live, the graphic novel represents another way we can get our students to read.
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OK, it’s true confession time. I am not a big fan of graphic novels. There, I said it. Actually, I like LOOKING at graphic novels, I just don’t really enjoy READING them. My eye is not sure where to start, go, move, and follow. And I get impatient with the pictures and want more words. Ridiculous, I know. And those are some of the very reasons that students really ENJOY graphic novels:

#1 Because many adults don’t like them, so graphic novels seem a bit taboo and thus even more inviting.

#2 Because they like looking at graphic novels.

#3 Because they do know how to scan, read, and follow the story.

#4 Because they want their story from the visuals as well as from the text.

#5 Because they don’t want to wade through so many words.

And for many more reasons.

I share this because one of my biggest pet peeves is working with librarians who let their own personal tastes and individual reading preferences get in the way of connecting kids with books THEY like, but we may not like as much. People often refer to our “gatekeeper” status as the people who build library collections and choose which books to purchase and then promote our collections to students. We owe it to them to build the collection that they want and need.

How Graphic Novels Help

I also share this because I see the value in graphic novels from many different perspectives that go well beyond personal preferences. This is not just a trend in publishing, graphic novels offer a new dimension for a literary experience that draws new readers into the fold—and that is powerful. Karen Gavigan and Mindy Tomasevich share some of their basics in their article, “Connecting Comics to Curriculum: Beginning Reader Graphic Novels,” one of our Essential Readings this month. And in her article for School Library Journal, Allyson Lyga (2006) noted, “Graphic novels help all different types of learners. For children who are incapable of visualizing a story, the artwork helps them create context…. and [they] help reluctant readers understand the plot of a story…. And cross gender lines.” As children are developing as readers, the format of the graphic novel helps them use their stronger visual literacy skills in gaining story from pictures. Continue reading “Building Literacy with Graphic Novels for Young Children”

Growing Readers and Parent Involvement through Picture Book Month

picture-bookPicture books. Who doesn’t remember looking at a favorite picture book over and over until it became worn and tattered? Who doesn’t love sharing favorite picture books now with those eager little readers as they delight over the colors and drawings that come together to tell a story? To celebrate National Picture Book Month, we’re sharing an article from our archives by Jennifer Kelley Reed about creating a successful picture book celebration at your school.


Picture Book Month is “an international literacy initiative that celebrates the print picture book during the month of November” (http://picturebookmonth.com/). The initiative affords libraries, schools, and literacy organizations the opportunity to promote the power of the picture book. Our school has participated for the last five years, and each year we have been building on our experiences, extending the reach of the activities from the library to the classroom to students’ homes. Our most recent celebration was a success on many fronts—it reminded K-5 students about the richness, information, and enjoyment of picture books, boosted library circulation, and strengthened the connection from our school to students’ families.

Individualizing Student Experiences

In our latest observance, the celebration lasted for the entire month of November, and we focused activities on students’ individual connections with picture books. Students in grades three through five challenged themselves to read a specific number of picture books from one of three “neighborhoods” in the library: biographies, picture books, or nonfiction. They were encouraged to set realistic goals for themselves, and to keep in mind that they weren’t in competition with other students, but instead enjoying the opportunity to explore and read books in a neighborhood they didn’t often frequent. It was clear that students heard the message, with some committing to read ten books, while others committed to fifty.

For the students in grades one and two, we focused on a nonfiction Picture Book Month challenge. For the month of November, I had more students than ever before coming to the library to exchange books, sharing what they were learning while reading, and marking the numbers on their challenge sheets. (This video on my blog shows the state of the library in the midst of Picture Book Month: http://reederama.blogspot.com/2014/11/what-does-school-library-in-midst-of.html.) Continue reading “Growing Readers and Parent Involvement through Picture Book Month”