Great Graphic Novels for the Younger Set

Hello all. I’ve been given the perfect excuse to talk about graphic novels again. Of course, I’ve written about how graphic novels can teach literacy and heal literacy problems in at-risk youth. And I’ve provided lists of graphic novels that teachers in the middle and high school levels can use to teach literacy and meet the common core standards.

Now I’ve had a request for a list of GNs for the younger set. As I’ve said before, I think that GNs have a great capacity to teach reading skills because the brunt of the storytelling can be done with pictures which makes it an easier transition from reading to pictures to reading words for many kids.

Conventional wisdom holds that young (say, sixish) pre-reading, non-capricious kids (if such a thing exists) can only hold still and read for, say, twenty minutes at a time. But I have seen half a dozen rowdy rowdy boys hold still and pour over Shaun Tan’s brilliant, wordless novel for adults, The Arrival, for forty-five minutes. And that book has a lot to teach about literacy even without the words.

When a child holds that book and “reads” it, he’s learning how to turn pages, read the pictures for storyline. He’s learning about pacing and chapters and character. I’ll cut off my ode to Shaun Tan’s Arrival but suffice it to say, there is a lot to be learned about reading from Graphic Novels.

So here is my completely biased and personal list of favorite graphic novels that the younger set, k-5, could easily get into.

  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan
  • Robot Dreams by Sara Varon
  • The Owly Series by Andy Runton
  • Adventures in Cartooning by James Sturm
  • Little Vampire by Joann Sfar (though it drives me nuts that the word bubbles are written in cursive)
  • Laika by Nick Abadzis
  • The Captain Underpants Series
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  • The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney
  • The Savage by David Almond and Dave McKean
  • Coraline the Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman–I haven’t read the GN of this, but the novel was so very very creepy–I’d also suggest Wolves in the Wall by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, though it’s a picture book really, not a GN, but I think it would be great for a 4th grade independent reader.
  • And I’d argue that a lot of elementary schoolers could get into the Bone series by Jeff Smith

And, of course, comic books. Really, seriously. They are short, exciting, usually a series of characters that kids can get to know and love over and over again. And they in no way seem tampered with by adults which is a great perk for emerging independent readers. (Hence the Avengers pics–also, I heart Joss Whedon like woah!)


About pamwatts

Writer, Reader, and Children's advocate
This entry was posted in Book Lists, Thoughts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Great Graphic Novels for the Younger Set

  1. Thanks so much for this list, Pam. I’ve never really thought about GNs for the younger set, but of course you make perfect sense. I’ll second your Bone argument as well — I can definitely see younger kids enjoying it.

  2. Jess Leader says:

    Fantastic, Pam! I am going to save this to my files for future teaching use! Thanks so much!

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