Blogger Early Childhood Programs and Services committee

Graphic Novels for Early Readers

As a librarian, a true joy in my life is sharing titles and formats that excite and interest me.  One of my favorites to share:  Graphic Novels for Early Readers.  Publishers have been providing a great number of titles beginning in 2020-2021. While this is not a new format, it is one that continually impresses me.

As a children’s librarian, I was often asked by caregivers if I had any recommendations for reluctant or struggling readers.  I would immediately direct them to our Graphic Novel area. Many readers don’t feel excited about reading, “because it’s boring.”  The image of a traditional book is usually conveyed as black text on light colored pages.  However, graphic novels are so much more dynamic than that! Words, expressions, and sounds are conveyed through colorful visuals and text for an engaging experience!  The format of a graphic novel perfectly introduces reading as an engaging experience that can continue with their growth as a reader.  

Graphic Novels provide wonderful visual literacy for emerging readers.  This can include inferring what to examine first, the text or images, and how that connects to sequential storytelling.  This also allows the reader to discover literary elements found within stories, such as plot, character development, mood, setting, and sound effects. Images are powerful and are able to convey story elements and a character’s thoughts and emotions using body language and facial expressions. The font chosen provides insight through shape, size, and the applied effect, helping to indicate the speaker’s emotion and/or inflection.  

Many titles, regardless of publisher, follow a similar pattern by including an introduction to characteristics you find in graphic novels, such as speech bubbles, word balloons, thought clouds, and panels.  They may also provide tips on how to visually engage with the images, how to follow the story within the panels, and how it all contributes to the story and reading experience.

Titles for early readers typically include simple, silly or humorous drawings.  Many of the characters are portrayed as animals or other nonhumans including food, robots, inanimate objects.  There are easy-to-follow page layouts.  The reliance on pictures assists the reader to create visuals as they read text, preparing readers for early chapter books that do not include as many visual elements.  

You may find the titles to be a part of a series or stand-alone books.   

Existing popular characters can be found in adaptations of picture books and early reader books.  These characters can also be found in new stories exclusive to the graphic novel format. Many publishers are grouping titles into a series for easy recognition including HarperCollins’s I Can Read Comics, Holiday House’s I Like to Read Comics, and Simon & Shuster’s Little Simon Graphics.  The content’s reading level can be connected to the involvement of an adult: Sharing the story with the child, reading with help, reading independently.  

Today’s young readers may find themselves overwhelmed with visual stimulation due to the amount and availability of “screen time”.  Graphic novels become a wonderful bridge for beginning readers.  The transition from animated screens to print becomes easier by combining visual and textual elements. Hopefully new readers will find that books can also be engaging and reading pleasurable. 

Below you will find recommended titles covering a range of reading levels and interests.

Today’s blog post was written by Jessica Beal (she/her), Youth and Teen Collections Librarian at Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library in Evansville, IN. Jessica is a member of the ALSC Early Childhood Programs & Services Committee and can be reached at jessicab@evpl.org.

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