Is Reading A Graphic Novel Really Reading?

by Maria Hughes

Wildly popular with tweeners and teenage boys, graphic novels run the gamut from legendary heroes to literary classics all the way to sci-fi worlds yet to be discovered.  They are written with punchy dialogue, explosives splashes of color, and action-pack scenes that nearly combust upon their very pages.  But are they really considered reading?

Historically dismissed by mainstream literary experts, the graphic novel has been gaining popularity among children and teens who might not normally embrace traditional children and young adult literature.  And because this population has been growing in leaps and bounds, these former non-readers have clamored to such unknown entities like the local library in an eager search for their favorite series.  Now teachers, professors and librarians are lauding graphic novel’s praises.  Why? Let’s take a look below:

First of all, I should clarity the differences between the traditional comic book and the graphic novel.  Comic books tend to tell stories in sequential events; for example, ‘Superman’ is told throughout a number of comic books, (probably now in the thousands from his first inception) no doubt his story will probably never have an end.  Whereas graphic novels will relay the novel in their entirety, all in one book.  Comic books tend to be much shorter in length and their appearance is like that of a magazine.  A graphic novel on the other hand, will look very much like a hard-bound book and other than the graphic illustrations, the length can range to well over a hundred pages.  Comic books tend to be relegated to specialty stores whereas graphic novels can be found at general bookstores as well as the local library.  Their content is quite different as well.  Some graphic novels can have extremely adult content, i.e. The 300 or Sin City, where your typical comic books might have some violent situations but in general they tend to have more mild-mannered storylines.  However, it is their inherent similarities that indeed has given the graphic novel its meteoric rise in popularity.  The bold and brash illustrations found in both genres, definitely appeal to a certain demographic, one that general thwarts all written material, namely 12-18 year old boys.  Some parents might initially discourage their children from reading a graphic novel as opposed to the literary version, but the truth is, the content is as challenging as its traditional version, the only difference is that graphic novels are accompanied by illustrations to help move the story along.

For those parents who might be skeptical about whether they are retaining the author’s work, try your own experiment.  Go to your local library and check out a graphic novel version of a classic novel.  Have your teen read and then compare notes.   Chances are you might be surprised when your son starts spouting out all kinds of literary allusions and philosophical discourse from his illustrated book.

At the end of the day, giving your child the gift of reading shouldn’t matter about which medium it comes from.  If you have a die-hard sports fan, don’t be so quick to have him log off from the ESPN article he is reading.  Remember: He is reading!!! And that is the most important part.

About the Author: +Maria L Hughes is a children’s book enthusiast, parent, and online publisher for childrensbookstore.com. She enjoys blogging about reading and short bedtime stories for kids.

About the author

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