I have actually not forgotten I have this blog, believe it or not! Would you believe if I said I was just trying to give you TONS of time to explore nonfiction with your kids?! (Really, I just got very busy with the end of the school year/semester and the start of another semester of teaching for me.)
We could keep going with nonfiction to kick off summer. I’ve already made the case that nonfiction can be great high-interest material for kids to get involved with, plus it can require less concentration because of the way nonfiction texts are often organized (how kids can skip around and read the parts they’re most interested in). And don’t forget, kid-appropriate magazines, which are often a mix of light fiction and nonfiction, are fantastic for summer, trips, pool/lake/beach-side reading! I could keep going with nonfiction, but I’m ready to switch over to something new.
This is the first thing that pops in my head when I think of motivating our kids to read over the summer AND enjoy it: comic books and graphic novels.
Before I start, a short rant: don’t restrict these books to vacation times, please, if your kids love them. Let them eat cake…er, read comics–whenever they want!
Also, one quick definition. Graphic novels are just books in which illustrations are an intricate part of the novel, like with comics. Graphic novels are more cohesive than comic books, in that they typically tell one story (like a novel, hence the name), in comic-style illustrations. They are more complex than many adults give them credit for. To comprehend these, a child has to fully process both the text and the illustrations together, and there are often complex storylines and lots of opportunities to infer what is happening between panels. Great skills to build on.
Maybe you’re concerned that the content of the comics your child wants to read would not be appropriate. The good news is, nowadays you can find comics and graphic novels that are appropriate for preschool through adulthood.
Here are some I’ve found appealed to my son since before he started kindergarten, and BONUS, there are some nonfiction graphic novels to be found, so they combine topics kids are interested in and comics!
The TOON series, above, brings us graphic novels for varying levels, starting at the very youngest–about age 4 and up. These have various authors, and as you can see from the titles, both fiction and nonfiction topics are available.
Also from the TOON series, by Geoffrey Hayes, are the Benny and Penny series, a little mouse brother and sister. These are called Level 2 in the TOON series, but they are still very simplistic and cute. I read these to and with Seth during kindergarten and prior to it. There are other cute fictional titles in the TOON series, so check and see what your library has.
The First Graphics: Wild Earth series has some fun nonfiction titles for younger children. As you can probably tell from the not-as-cartoon-y illustrations, these are slightly more complex and mature-looking than the TOON books, which suits the subject matter. These are informative, but still understandable for younger children. Age 5/6 and up for sure can begin to enjoy these, maybe younger with lots of parent support and interest on the child’s part.
One more, from the My First Graphic Novel series, is Clues in the Attic. These are recommended for Pre-K to 1st grade on Amazon. These might appeal to children who especially enjoy a little mystery.
Now, when we think about using comics and graphic novels to motivate children to read, we’re probably thinking more the elementary-and-up age range. If you get the newspaper delivered, you have a daily treasure trove just waiting for you to take advantage of, in the comic section of the paper. When I read the newspaper comics to my kids, I point to each panel (square) as I read it, to help them follow the “story” better.
Here are some comic collections my (7 ½ year old) son has enjoyed the past few years through now.
On the left is a collection of Rose Is Rose comics called Peekaboo Planet, by Pat Brady and Don Wimmer. Rose Is Rose appears in our newspaper too, and is an ongoing story of a (happy) family and their pets. I picked up this particular collection at Tuesday Morning randomly a few years ago for about 20 cents on clearance. Love it when that happens!
Most of us know Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. My son has been enjoying these play fellows for a few years now. In the same way that children enjoy reading about Ramona Quimby and Junie B. Jones, they relish Calvin’s imaginary adventures and outlandish stunts. They may not grasp his philosophical ramblings and outrage at society, and that’s probably better for now.
Some other comics that we enjoy reading together are Dennis the Menace (Hank Ketcham), Peanuts (Snoopy and the gang, of course by Charles Schultz), and Mutts (by Patrick McDonnell). We have others we like too, some I routinely preview (in the newspaper) before sharing them with the kids, just to make sure it’s something I want to share and explain!
I occasionally see comic book collections (like Peanuts, etc.) at garage sales, used book sales, and the like, going for cheap. Sometimes they’re in bad shape, especially when they’re older. Who cares? Pick these up for cheap, throw a few pieces of mailing tape down the spine to hold them together, and let your kids carry them wherever you’re headed this summer: the pool, the park, the beach, long road trips, etc. And if they get food spilled on them, or lost, or water-damaged, it’s no big deal. If you get the paper, grab the comic section before you head out on a road trip–instant high-interest reading material for them!
On the next post (yes, I plan to post again in the NEAR future, promise), I’ll have some graphic novel recommendations for the elementary to middle school range. My husband (who teaches 6th grade language arts) is excited to share some of his favorite graphic novels for middle school with us. Share in the comments if your family has favorite comics and graphic novels you read together!