February 17, 2023
“I want my child to read a book that counts. Graphic novels and manga do not count as books.”
While every grown-up may have differing views of whether or not graphic novels and manga (a type of graphic novel) aid in reading comprehension, there are a lot of statistics, educators, and librarians who say that graphic novels do improve literacy in young people.
First, what are graphic novels and manga? Graphic novels are a format of book, not a genre. They are simply books that use art to help tell the story. Manga (pronounced MAAHN-GAH) is the Japanese word for comic. Most people read from left to right. Manga is meant to be read from right to left, so it may seem to some as though manga readers are reading the book backwards. While it is a Japanese comic, the plots and characters of manga are often more elevated than others, nearly to the superhero level style of dramatics.
Now, let me break down some myths for you:
- Graphic novels don’t have enough text to count as reading. There may be many vibrant illustrations, but nearly every page has text. Whether it is characters speaking, descriptions, or thoughts, youth will still develop social cues and context of perspective through this visual medium.
- Middle school and high school students won’t pay attention to graphic novels. Graphic novels are very engaging, and many of these books feature action, strong plot points, and well-developed characters. This makes graphic novels and manga perfect for reluctant readers. Pairing art with text offers another level of comprehension that is not showcased in any other format of literary writing.
- Graphic novels are not quality literature. Due to literacy demands, many works of fiction, classic and new, have been adapted to graphic novel form. Check out MCPL’s catalog for manga classics or graphic novel adaptations to see great contemporary and classic works. Graphic novels provide all of the wonderful things found in other books—characters, conflict and resolution of plot, and multiple twists. Whether they are based on a classic work, contemporary literature, or a superhero adventure, graphic novels still teach narrative flow and the fundamentals of literary devices.
- Graphic novels won’t provide further development in young people or adults. Graphic novels provide more visual social cues than written words alone. Graphic novels and manga can offer a visual aid to emotions and social situations without interpretation or subtext. They can also expand vocabulary, even if there appear to be less words. Repetition of words with the visuals provides a connection for the reader and supports comprehension. Using imagery from graphic novels and manga, readers can see new perspectives through detail and perceptions of characters, adding visual literary skills. These skills are of use in computer programming, math, and construction.
Try OverDrive for Teens for over 100 graphic novel and manga titles, including Heartstopper and My Hero Academia, as well as some of the newest titles in the Library’s eBook collection. Check out Teen Book Cloud for over 50 classics, many of which are used in school curriculum, and over 20 nonfiction titles. If there are others you would like to read right there and then, there are well over a thousand titles available.
If you’re still unsure, let me leave you with this thought, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” A graphic novel can do it with only six per picture.
Red Bridge Branch
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