Some may argue with me here and say that all books for primary grades are picture books, so why do they need graphic novels? Fair enough. Books for children ages 5-7 are picture books, but with a difference – picture books usually feature large, 2-page spreads and pictures that take up one page at a time. These books are wonderful, and teach children how to read, count, and learn their colors. They tell enduring stories with beautiful art and simple text. But what a graphic novel does is tell stories sequentially. By reading a graphic novel, even one without words – they exist! – children learn to place events in sequence; one event happening after another.
For early readers, graphic novels that have few words teach children pacing, with actions and reactions taking place within the panels on the pages. As they grow as readers, graphic novels add word bubbles, helping readers put thoughts and words to actions. It boosts comprehension when a child can remember things in a sequence: The boy put the leash on his dog. Then, the boy took the dog to the store with him. They bought groceries. Then, they came home. The boy handed the bag of groceries to his mother. Do you understand? Laying out events in a linear fashion helps children put the story together – especially valuable for younger readers – without an excess of words that may trip some readers up.
Please enjoy this list of graphic novels geared toward our youngest readers. And if you have any suggestions or reactions, please weigh in!
The Owly series of graphic novels by Andy Runton follows the adventures of Owly, a kind owl, and his friends, Wormy and Scampy. The group of friends are sweet and strive to do good in their world, sending positive messages about friendship and working together. The novels have few to no words, making it a great series for young readers. The books are available in many libraries, bookstores and through online retailers, and Andy Runton’s website (http://www.andyrunton.com/owly/) offers free Owly comics for download and a great teacher’s guide.
The Binky series by Ashley Spires follows a space cat, Binky, on his adventures in outer space. In reality, “outer space” takes place in Binky’s imagination; he fights aliens (bugs) and has his co-pilot, Ted (a stuffed mouse) at his side. The books illustrate the power of imagination, and the brief text makes this a great, fun choice for readers gaining more confidence – or who want to enjoy a fun read-aloud.
Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series has a place on the American Library Association’s banned/challenged book list for bathroom humor and being “unsuited for age group,” but kids love to read it. The text alternates between brief paragraphs and sequential panels, with tongue-in-cheek dialogue. This is a fun read for more confident readers to enjoy on their own, but I spent many an hour giggling during a read-aloud with my son. Kids can make their own Captain Underpants stories at http://www.scholastic.com/captainunderpants/.
Keep checking this space – we’ll have more books for higher grades coming soon!