A Tribute to Graphic Novels for Kids

These visually engaging literary works are finally gaining the recognition they deserve. Jerry Craft won the 2020 Newbery Medal and nearly 30 other literary awards for his #1 New York Times Bestselling graphic novel New Kid, opens a new window. And in the last few years, there has been an explosion of distinguished comics published for kids of all ages and reading abilities.

In my library, the shelf space for graphic novels has expanded to twice the size from a couple of years ago. Watching young readers make a beeline for the graphic novel shelves the minute they enter the children's room warms the hearts of many librarians. Graphic novels get kids excited to read!

Yet graphic novels until recently often receive an unworthy rap. It is disappointing that naysayers still can be heard voicing these:


Graphic novels are
… too easy or too simple
… not real books
… just for fun, not learning
… inferior books
… a cop-out on reading
… only for kids who struggle with reading

…when we tell kids that a book is too easy we are dismissing their entire reading journey.  We are dismissing who they are as readers and just how much work it may have been to get there.  We are telling them that their reading journey only has value if they read books that we deem appropriate...”     

~ Pernille Ripp, Teacher. Author. Creator. Speaker. Mom. 

Benefits of graphic novels

  • Render the same literary elements as narrative stories: characters, conflict, resolution, setting, and theme
  • Provide contextual clues to support story comprehension
  • Processing text and images together lead to better recall and transfer of learning. 
  • Strengthen understanding of characters through body movement and facial expressions in the illustrations
  • Require readers to understand literary devices such as metaphor, symbolism, point of view, foreshadowing, and the use of puns and alliteration
  • Develop visual literacy skills – necessary in a growing culture of interactive media
  • Reinforce inference and critical thinking skills, stimulating the imagination

If you want to grow a bibliophile, encourage your child to read a wide variety of books. Reading different formats and genres will extend literacy prowess, nurture empathy, and expand their view and knowledge of the world.

Today’s world of stories contains far more than just prose, and readers who are skilled at understanding and being critical of multiple formats will excel.”     ~Scholastic

As with all learning, share and discuss the books your child chooses to read. If you are hesitant about how to do this with comics, consider these suggestions:

For emerging readers - 10 tips, opens a new window to read graphic novels aloud from Toon Books, opens a new window 

Discussion prompts for graphic novels

  1. Pick a page and think about the meaning from the words alone and then the meaning from the images alone. Is the story the same or different? Does the meaning change when the words and images work together?
  2. In text-only novels, descriptions provide the details. How do you learn the details in graphic novels? Pick an image and find three details in the picture. What do those details tell you about the characters, the place, and other literary elements?
  3. Can you find any literary elements in the graphic novel you are currently reading (e.g., foreshadowing, point of view, or metaphor?)

A creative writing activity

Select a narrative section from a traditional novel and turn it into a graphic novel, rewriting the prose as dialogue and creating pictures to go with the story panels.


MCFL Kids: Graphic Novel Gems

MCFL Kids: #OwnVoices Graphic Novels

MCFL Kids: If You Liked the Baby Sitters Club Graphic Novels

Graphic novels have become a powerful motivator to get kids reading and serve as a valuable hook to foster lifelong reading enjoyment. 

Maybe graphic novels are just what a child needs to feel like a reader."     

~ Pernille Ripp, Teacher. Author. Creator. Speaker. Mom.

Let's appreciate, celebrate, and promote graphic novels for kids!


Ripp, Pernille. (2018, October 10). Why graphic novels belong in all of our libraries, opens a new window. [Pernille Ripp [blog]

Scholastic. (n.d.). A Guide to Using Graphic Novels with Children and Teens, opens a new window. [digital report]

Taylor, Melissa. (n.d.). 8 Reasons to Let Your Kids Read Graphic Novels, opens a new window. Imagination Soup [website]

Tips for Mom & Dad. (n.d.). How to Read Comics with Kids, opens a new window.  Toon-Books [website]

Photo by Joe Ciciarelli on Unsplash