The legendary illustrator, Dave Gibbons is the creator of Watchmen, the best-selling graphic novel of all time. He is an ardent advocate of the graphic novel as a way to get children hooked on to reading because he believes that ‘in today’s very visual world, the pictorial qualities and cinematic structure of graphic texts have a particular attraction to young people.’
Considering the importance of the issue, this advice may be worth a try. Here are some things to consider as we introduce children to graphic novels.
ACCEPT THE DIFFERENCE
Purists have many concerns regarding the use of pictorial images in books for older children. But this is not a regular book versus graphic novel debate. It is best to embrace graphic novels as a different type of literature to enhance interest and reading skills of the young reader. Graphic texts have visuals not only on the covers but in multiple panels and on every page to move the narrative ahead. This might work well for children who are usually strong visual learners. The imagery allows children to interact with the characters and the narrative in a way that is not possible with only written text.
Although graphic novels have less text, the words are chosen carefully to make the maximum impact. The economy of written text can really pack a punch if this tool is used effectively!
GET THE PARENTS ONBOARD
Many parents disapprove of the graphic novel as literature for children and as a result, many children do not have access to illustrated books or novels at home. Sometimes the alternative can be much worse. A recent Ofcom report revealed that an average child now spends up to 15 hours per week online. This is a huge problem and graphic novels are one way to get children off the gadgets and back to books. For children who have not yet cultivated the reading habit and have no interest in books, this may be one way to catalyse interest in books since children always find graphic novels more interesting and less intimidating than books.
CREATING GRAPHIC TEXTS
Graphic novels can also be a fun way to introduce children to the joy of storytelling. Getting the children to create their own mini graphic novel is one way to get them to do creative writing while taking the stress off writing! Get the children to narrate a joke or describe an incident that happened to them or an excerpt from a TV show or movie. Next, give them some pre-ruled paper with panel boxes and encourage them to pen the narrative down as a graphic novel.
The visuals can be simple stick figures or more complex images. The intent is to get the creative juices flowing as the children think about the narrative in the form of a movie – complete with close-ups, long shots and camera angles! Creating graphic novels is a great way to teach children about the techniques of effective storytelling.
CATALYST TO OTHER TYPES OF BOOKS
Getting children away from more facile entertainment online and getting them to read is a difficult task since many children dismiss traditional books as ‘tough’ or ‘boring’. Graphic novels, which are visually attractive and have an easier narrative pattern, are one way to overcome this barrier. Once children are more positively inclined towards books, they can be gently introduced to different and more complex text. In fact, the illustrator, Dave Gibbons recommends greater usage of graphic textbooks in classrooms.
Dave Gibbons has helped design Project X Origins Graphic Texts for children. These books aim to improve the children’s comprehension and motivate them to read. They also try ‘to provide a new way for children to explore classics, non-fiction, and poetry.’