How To Read Graphic Novels 

With Your Children

By Lexie Schlegel 

If you worry graphic novels don't offer enough depth for your children, consider how difficult it is to get kids to read and how engaging these books are to those in middle school and up. While you probably want a variety of literature types mixed into your family reading time, there is a place for graphic novels in the equation.

In the most recent survey available, comics and graphic novels grossed $1.015 billion in North America alone. Graphic novels are now becoming more popular around the globe. Lest you think the topics are shallow, that isn't always the case. "March: Book 3" was the first graphic novel to receive the National Book Award. The story is about the Civil Rights movement and touches on important historical moments. It offers a great opportunity for more in-depth discussions with your children. 

Here are some ways to get the most out of reading graphic novels with your children:

1. Take Turns Reading

If your child is old enough to read, take turns reading the graphic book. You read a page or two and share the images and then have your child read to you. Reading out loud is a skill children use in the classroom. Spoken words create a different understanding than when reading silently. Recent research shows reading out loud has a number of cognitive benefits.

Suggested graphic novel:"Username: Evie" is about a teen named Evie who doesn't quite fit in with those around her. Evie escapes her world by getting sucked into a computer file and thrown into the graphic universe of this book. The book is 192 pages and published by Hachette Book Group. Both younger kids and teens will enjoy this novel because of the interesting premise and the illustrations throughout.

2. Involve the Whole Family

One of the great things about a graphic novel is that even pre-readers engage with the imagesin the book. Early readers sometimes use the illustrations to relate to a story before they recognize the actual words on the page. Gather the whole family and let each person tell part of the story. For children who aren't yet reading, ask them to explain what's happening in the photos and then read the text on the page, so the older readers don't grow frustrated.

3. Focus on Comprehension

Reading comprehension is a vital part of developing skills that allow a student to excel in school. Good readers connect one thought to the next and at the end of a short story or book, understand the plot's meaning as a whole. Graphic novels have an advantage because the human brain processes words paired with images and retains them better.

Suggested graphic novel:The "CatStronauts" series is a set of graphic novels focusing on cat characters trying to figure out how to overcome a global energy shortage. The CatStronauts launch into outer space to save the planet from darkness. The book is 160 pages and works well for elementary-aged children. Younger children will also enjoy the characters and illustrations.

4. Read Frequently

In one study, researchers found that students who started the year as struggling readers but ended above average spent about six additional minutes a dayreading than their less successful peers. If a graphic novel is what it takes to engage your child and get them to read more frequently, then encourage them.

5. Assign Each Person a Role

Graphic novels typically have a set of characters who appear in each book in the series. One fun way to read with your children is to assign everyone in the family a character. Dress up like the character, read the part and act out the movements — within reason, of course. Making reading come to life in this way is much more engaging for reluctant readers and may help them better comprehend the words on the page.

Suggested graphic novel:"The Breadwinner" is the story of a young girl who lives in Afghanistan. She must help support her family but has to disguise herself as a boy to do so and then goes to prison. The novel is based on an animated feature film that received an Oscar nomination. It's well suited for middle school students, and is a short read of about 80 pages.

Open Family Discussions

Even if you don't always read aloud with your children, try to read the same books they are. This allows you to open up discussions with your kids about what's going on in the novel and helps them with comprehension and deeper thinking. If your family reads "The Breadwinner" together, you can ask what they think about the character going to prison and if it's unfair and why. Any type of reading is beneficial, but especially when your child learns to love a good book.

LEXIE SCHLEGEL is a Digital Content Specialist at WebFX. She enjoys baking, writing and kayaking in her free time.

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