At a glance
Graphic novels are a good choice for struggling readers.
They have less text than traditional books, which makes them less overwhelming.
Graphic novels are easy to read but have age-appropriate content.
When kids have trouble with reading, chances are they’re not thrilled when it comes time to sit down with a book. For kids with reading difficulties, traditional books can be hard to get through. The dense text or the number of pages can lead them to feel bored, frustrated, or even embarrassed.
But kids still need to read—even more so if they struggle with it. When kids avoid books and don’t practice reading, it only gets harder to build reading skills as they get older.
The good news is that there are options outside of the classic novel or textbook. A graphic novel uses images—often in a comic strip style—to tell a story. With pictures or illustrations and a lot less text, graphic novels help kids practice reading. They also can help kids build positive associations with books.
Here are five ways graphic novels can help struggling readers.
1. They look and feel more approachable.
Graphic novels give kids a reading experience that’s more “bite size,” with images on every page and much less text. Unlike a 250-page novel filled with dense text, a graphic novel doesn’t seem like it will be too hard to read. Instead, kids can flip through the pages and breathe a sigh of relief. And that can make them feel more confident that they can get through the story.
2. They feel mature and cool, too.
Graphic novels are accessible while still being mature in look and subject matter. The typical picture book is easier to read, but it’s also meant for younger children. Graphic novels are an alternative that kids can still relate to age-wise.
Kids can also read a graphic novel in front of their friends without having to worry about being judged or feeling embarrassed. The fact that their reading level is a few years behind is a non-issue with this format.
3. They can help with reading comprehension.
Many kids with reading difficulties are visual learners. Having images alongside words provides a bridge for understanding the text. Kids might recognize a word but forget its meaning. Noticing the picture of it in the background can give kids that aha moment. It also teaches them to use all the clues they can to help with reading comprehension.
4. They can help kids feel a sense of accomplishment.
Kids who have trouble reading are used to feeling discouraged by reading. But a graphic novel can give them a taste of reading success. When a struggling reader says, “I just finished that whole book!” it’s a big deal. This kind of success builds confidence and motivates kids to stick with it. They might even start enjoying books rather than avoiding them.
5. They can prepare kids for other types of books.
Less text, or more pictures, doesn’t mean less active reading. With graphic novels, kids still have to do the mental work of understanding the story line. This includes the plot, narrative, character development, problem, and resolution. The skills kids develop with graphic novels can improve their ability to get through other kinds of books. Also, there are graphic novels with high Lexile levels that require strong reading skills.
Graphic novels can turn reading into a happy, intriguing, and worthwhile task for your child. These books can make reading feel relevant and achievable. After finishing that graphic novel, and then that graphic series, your child may just pick up a long-ignored book.
Find books on topics that catch your child’s interest. Search the Book Finder tool from our founding partner, Reading Rockets.
Graphic novels look and feel approachable while still speaking to older kids.
Pictures can help with reading comprehension.
Graphic novels can help kids feel more confident about reading.
About the author
About the author
Louise Baigelman, MEd is the executive director of Story Shares, which distributes high-quality stories for teen and adult beginning readers.