When I was a kid my dad read to me every night. By age 5, I was traveling nightly through the worlds of The Hobbit or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Even afternoon naps would start with a bit of poetry.
When I had my kids, I knew that I wanted to raise them to be readers. I took to heart the lessons my father taught me—that reading quickly or knowing how to pronounce long words aren’t the important things, but loving the sound of language, identifying with the characters, and enjoying the journey into other worlds are what make reading fun.
By the time my youngest was learning to read, I was discovering graphic novels for myself, like Hope Larson’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time and Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series. I noticed how attracted my son was to the images in my books. He would curl up with me and stare at the gorgeous illustrations and ask me about the characters and the stories. So we visited the comic book store and the library and started finding all sorts of graphic novels and cool comics for younger kids.
He started spending hours poring over these books, even though he could barely read the words. The illustrations, the exaggerated characters, and the way the panels were arranged to propel the stories forward were enough to keep his interest. Little by little he started reading bits out loud. He’d ask me to help him with the tougher words. And as soon as he finished one book, he’d ask for the next in the series. His most-loved series was a tie-in to his favorite TV show, Avatar: The Last Airbender, which gave him even more motivation to read and more backstory to each chapter.
Now he’s a reading machine! Without graphic novels, I’m sure he’d still be reading, but I’m not sure he’d be enjoying the process quite as much.
Some of my kids’ favorite books are below, but also check out a longer list of graphic novels.
Lunch Lady series. The heroes of this cartoony series are the cafeteria women who uncover secrets, thwart evil plans, and always save the day.
Squish series. Super silly and almost nonsensical to adults, Squish takes kids into the world of an ameoba that’s not that much different from a kids’ world…sorta.
Bink & Gollie. These three friendship tales are light and funny (and perfect for early readers), but still tap into regular kid experiences like jealousy and compromise.
Giants Beware! This fun quest turns the traditional princess story on its head with lovable, passionate characters.
Zita the Spacegirl Action-packed and full of fantastical creatures, Zita is a superhero story about a regular girl who gets zapped into a different galaxy.
Cardboard. Amazing tale of a boy and his dad who create living creatures out of a cardboard box. A bit darker than some of the other titles.