How Comics Helped My Kid Love Reading

Graphic novels hook early readers with cool illustrations and easy-to-follow stories. By Sierra Filucci
How Comics Helped My Kid Love Reading

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.

About Sierra Filucci

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Sierra is a journalist with a special interest in media and families. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, and she's been writing and editing professionally for more... Read more
What are your favorite graphic novels?

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Comments (18)

Teen, 13 years old written by Moviegirl700

Some good comics and graphic novels for kids to read are below (some from above!): Ages 5-10: The Bink and Gollie Series, Piggy and Gerald, and Calvin and Hobbes. Ages 11-13: The Diary of Anne frank comics and Calvin and Hobbes. 14+: Explore all kinds!
Parent of a 11 and 11 year old written by maddox121

Parent of a 5 and 7 year old written by BookNerdMom

I am a grade 7-9 teacher, and Amulet is almost a guaranteed win with my students. Most of my students like it, but it seems to really grab my reluctant readers. It's usually the first book/series they've ever felt "into." I'm quite surprised it isn't reviewed on this site. My kindergarten and grade 1 daughters are also really into graphic novels, and are also loving Giants Beware and Zita the Spacegirl, both of which I picked up based on this article.
Parent of a 6 and 8 year old written by Sierra Filucci

Hi! So, we didn't have Amulet reviewed at the time this article was published, but we do now. It's so great, isn't it?
Teen, 16 years old written by sisterwhocares

If your kid still likes comic books when he is a teen, the Artemis Fowl series has been converted into comic book form. I recommend it for older teens only, though, since the pics and themes are pretty dark.
Parent of a 5, 7, and 9 year old written by mrmerlot

While my older kids (9, 7) love to read, as a fan of the graphic novel form, I try to find as many age-appropriate titles for them as possible. I can heartily recommend Zita, Lunch Lady, and Giants Beware! I've added the others on this list to my to-read list. I also can't speak highly enough of Jeff Smith's incomparable Bone series! Another recent favorite is the Mal and Chad trilogy by Stephen McCranie.
Adult written by Stephanie Hay

I have only seen one of the Bone books and the pictures and content were VERY adult... what age would you say is ok for them to read this?
Adult written by Stephanie Hay

I have only seen one of the Bone books and the pictures and content were VERY adult... what age would you say is ok for them to read this?
Parent of a 6 and 8 year old written by Sierra Filucci

I love the Bone series too! For some reason it hasn't tickled my kid yet, but there's still time. Thanks for the Mal and Chad rec!
Adult written by Regan McMahon

I get this kind of feedback from parents often. Kids love graphic novels, and there is so much to choose from in this genre these days! They really help kids get hooked on reading and aid in the transition from picture books to chapter books. And for older kids, there are plenty of very sophisticated graphic novels that tackle serious social and political issues as well as ones that tell history or a good science fiction story. This genre is just exploding -- in a good way!