The importance of graphic novels for reluctant readers

By Michaela May ’20, Assistant Editor

With advancing technology and fewer print editions of readable material remaining available, it has become a rising debate whether people are digesting as much reading material as before. The rise of graphic novels in the last decade in the United States has arguably started to change that.

Being told a story in both a textual and visual narrative appeals to an audience that has become accustomed to seeing everything on a screen in front of them, and for those who may struggle with reading a traditional novel front to back, it is a game-changer.

Publishers Weekly reported in May of 2019 that total sales of graphic novels and periodical comics in the United States and Canada were approximately $1.09 billion in 2018, over an $80 million increase since 2017. These metrics were ruled by children’s graphic novels, suggesting a possible shift in the way our rising generation wishes to consume reading content.

Why have graphic novels become such a preferred medium?

In a 2018 blog post, Sarah Knutson from Concordia University-Portland gives multiple reasons detailing the importance of graphic novels not only in the classroom but for independent readers as well. Kids can develop real-world skills that may not be as discernible to all, including context clues, the use of facial expressions and inference skills that can only be picked up through visual cues. Literary skills also come into play such as the enhancement of a plot and bringing together a sequence of events.

Because of some of the ease allowed with graphic novels, reluctant readers are often fascinated by the concept of reading while seeing the action in front of them. Without having to trudge through what may be difficult for them, there are added cues to heighten their interests with the illustrations a graphic novel provides. These are also beneficial for those with dyslexia or other learning disabilities who may struggle with getting through a traditional novel.

The stigma against graphic novels and whether they are true “literature” is a debate that needs to come to an end. They have proven to be valuable to children, adolescents and adults alike and cover a wide range of genres in the same way “regular” novels have; the only true difference between them is the illustrative elements graphic novels provide.

As this medium of literature turns up more in the mainstream market, people will need to reevaluate the way they regard these novels and understand just how important they can be in conveying a message and connecting to readers. Literature is a form of art that needs to evolve, not remain in the past.