Friday, September 14, 2012

Comic Books - They're Good For You!

Comic books have been around for a very long time.  Most parents who come in remember reading their own favorite comic books as a child, and a bunch of those characters and series are still around today!  And countless new comic books and graphic novels have come out at various reading levels.  Many of these new books have higher linguistic levels, represent multicultural viewpoints, cover important social topics, and provide opportunities for readers to develop multiple literacies simultaneously.

Occasionally, I hear of parents or teachers who don't want their child reading comic books.  Of course, every parent has the right to choose what they want their children reading, and the responsibility to keep an eye on their child's choices.  It's also important, though, to know that comic books and graphic novels provide special benefits that regular chapter books lack.

An incredibly important - and often overlooked - part of literacy is called print motivation, or the enjoyment of reading.  Kids who think reading is fun will do it more often and will naturally be better at it.  Comic books and graphic novels are especially great for reluctant readers.  They're FUN to read, and they often provide a foundation of enjoyment that will lead to reading other types of books.  Research has found that graphic novels are especially helpful in developing print motivation in boys.  Think of them as a gateway drug to expanded reading.

Reading Comprehension:
Many kids today can read aloud and sound out words, but struggle with reading comprehension.  When you ask them what they've just read, they can't remember.  Research has found that the way graphic novels incorporate words and pictures helps children (especially struggling readers) develop better reading comprehension.

English Language Learners:
The direct relation between words and pictures can be especially helpful for kids who are struggling with the English language.  For non-native English speakers, the colloquial qualities of comic books are also helpful.  Characters in graphic novels tend to use slang and common phrases that are very helpful for kids to learn authentic, everyday English.

Sound interesting?  Want to get your hands on some of these super helpful books?  You're in luck!  Here at the Watertown Free Public Library, we have TONS of graphic novels!  In the children's department, we keep them on the shelves across from the DVDs.  Stop in and check some out today!

Curious about the research I've referenced?  Below you'll find a very small smattering of articles that have been published on this topic.  Feel free to do your own research to find out more!

A Novel Approach: Using Graphic Novels to Attract Reluctant Readers, by Philip Crawford.  Published in Library Media Connection in February, 2004.

Media Literacy, Graphic Novels, and Social Issues, by Gretchen Schwarz.  Published in Studies in Media and Information Literacy Education in November, 2007.

Sequentially SmART--Using Graphic Novels Across the K-12 Curriculum, by Karen Gavigan.  Published in Teacher Librarian in June, 2012.  You can find the full text of this article in our Expanded Academic ASAP database, available in the Research area of our website.

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