In the present times, OTT, TV, mobile phones, video games and a multitude of other handheld devices are the constant source of engagement and entertainment for Generation Alpha. And, they are increasingly becoming an indispensable part of their lives. Most children and young adults don’t find reading as vibrant and entertaining as the gratification provided by these gadgets and gizmos, which is instant. Others who are into reading books cannot keep up with their reading habit with the mere distractions of screens around them. As a result, many children miss out on the captivating beauty of reading in their formative years.
But what if I told you that mixing vibrancy into reading in the form of recreational reading can induce and help children sustain their reading habits, develop reading skills and help them form positive associations with books, and it is possible! Recreational reading actually serves as a mindful practice to help with the digital dilemma.
You heard it right!
Recreational reading with Comic books and Graphic Novels provides an entertaining Segue for introducing children to reading and in keeping up with their reading habits. It also helps in reigniting the love for reading.
Graphic novels serve as a good option for struggling readers. For children with reading difficulties, traditional textbooks or classic novels can be hard to pull through. Big blocks of texts or a high number of pages can be daunting for them; making them feel exhausted, disappointed, or even embarrassed. But the fact is, children must continue reading even more if they struggle with it. When children try to escape from books and not practice reading, it becomes increasingly difficult to develop reading skills as they grow older. So, novels and textbooks with more images and illustrations and fewer written words give struggling readers a sense of attainability and help them build reading skills, further establishing a love for reading.
Now, let us acquaint ourselves with “Graphic Novels” in the following paragraphs!
Graphic Novels are novels that have lengthy and multifaceted storylines, like a chapter book, expressed through rich illustrations accompanied with contextualized texts presented in the most imaginative and informative way. The pictures in graphic novels are as integral to the story as the words. Graphic novels are supposed to be comic books, but they aren’t really comic books. Read the difference here. Children have a short attention span, and reading is the best way to improve that. These novels are exceptional for brain stimulation and to enhance memory retention. Children also learn the art of expressing with the added benefit of getting fluency in a language.
Graphic novels can be a single story or compilation of short stories with the same cast. They come in all formats- fiction, non-fiction, comedy, fantasy, mystery, realistic fiction, science fiction, history and horror. Moreover, educational graphic novels are available too.
Benefits of reading graphic novels for children
- Stimulates the love for reading
Developing a reading habit from an early age is important for the holistic development of a child. However, a child undertakes an activity only when it answers an inner need or fulfils a purpose or is entertaining to them. A book full of illustrations and minimum accompanying text can be engaging. Illustrations help children to keep up with complex situations in the story, and they also give them a wide berth to comprehend different perspectives. Graphic novels have the power to even encourage reluctant readers.
~Narwhal and Jelly series by Ben Clanton (Age 6+ years), Tiny Titans by Art Baltazar (Age 6+ years), and Sonic the Hedgehog by Ian Flynn (Age 7+ years) are a few catchy graphic novels.
- Instills values and Teaches life lessons
Graphic Novels are an excellent way of teaching life lessons to children. They help them build a connection with the characters experiencing similar situations as themselves. These books also help kids embrace personality differences and empathise with others. The unique format of graphic novels provides exposure to prejudice and social issues.
~Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Sheth (Age 5-8 years) and Little Robot by Ben Hatke (Age 5+ years) are great novels to teach patience, loyalty, friendship and unconditional love in siblings.
- Your child could be the next Sherlock Holmes
Children learn what they see, read and hear. Buy them a mystery novel, and next thing you know, they’ll ask you to buy binoculars, a magnifying lens and a hat! Children love heroes, superheroes, detectives and people solving crimes. Mysteries stimulate a child’s imagination which assists in building reasoning and problem-solving skills in them.
~Guinea Pig by Colleen AF Venable (Age 7+ years) is a hilarious story of a guinea pig who is a detective and solves mysteries in a pet store.
- Build emotional stability
Children learn what they see, or in this case, what they see and read. Graphic novels are great to teach children how to comprehend complex emotions. A child feels a connection with the characters in the book and becomes sensitive to their emotional variations. Children are sometimes obstinate, and parents cannot always reason with them; books can help them learn patience, expose them to different emotional variations, teach them how to articulate anger, irritation, sadness, happiness and love. When children are able to express their needs and emotions, they feel stable.
~The Little Book of Big Feelings and Kind of Coping by Maureen Marzi Wilson are great picks.
- Helps in Academic levelling
For children who struggle to understand literary contexts or visualize abstract concepts, graphic novels can be of help. Graphic novels scaffold the learning process since concepts and context become easy to comprehend through illustrations and diagrams. Illustrations provide contextual clues and help the struggling readers understand the meaning of the written narrative. The visual imagery assists in understanding difﬁcult and abstract concepts. The recreational form of reading through graphic novels gives struggling readers a sense of accomplishment, thereby boosting their confidence. It is high time we acknowledge that some children are visual learners who learn concepts and understand the context through pictures, block diagrams, and illustrations. Chunks of written words are overwhelming to process for such children.
~Birth of the Earth by Jacqui Bailey (Age 7+ years) and ‘Have You Seen My Dragon?’ by Steve Light (Ages 3-5 years) can be helpful for such kids.
- Sate their curiosity
Children have curious and imaginative minds, and they must be nurtured from an early age. They have millions of questions and are eager to understand everything at once. Graphic novels can sate that curious mind. There is a vast collection of books with general knowledge and facts described through stories and illustrations.
~Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler (Age 6+ years).
- Show them culture and history
You can teach children history and culture in a creative and exciting way. There are many graphic novels about Indian religions, traditions, festivals etc. and images can help one understand and imagine the cultures much better.
~Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel (Age 5-9 years) and Little Indians: Stories from Across the Country by Pika Nani (Age 10-14 years).
Ever since graphic novels came out in 1978, they have grown into a huge trend. From Motu and Patlu to Spider-man and Toy Story, most of the animated movies and cartoons are adaptations of graphic novels. Even if action is the most popular genre, there are thousands of books narrating stories about family, friendship, honesty, and success.
Most parents are still hesitant in letting their children read comics and graphic novels and do not believe in the recreational form of reading. But I want to say, reading books, graphic novels, and comics can help develop patience, acceptance, and empathy, induce problem-solving skills and emotional stability in children. These qualities help shape their personality and, ultimately, their future.
Reading comic books or graphic novels is still reading. I feel anything that excites a child to continue to turn the page is a win.
Let your child explore the magical realm of fiction, the world, its varied beauty, histories and culture or whatever they are interested in through a world full of vivid colours and amazing imagination. Support them in their quest for learning and growing through this unique approach.
Have a happy reading time with your little ones, today and always!