Concern about Graphic Novels

Q:  I continue to run into resistance from both parents and some colleagues at my school about graphic novels. Just the phrase “graphic novel” makes some adults pale, and that’s before they’ve even cracked a cover. Others still think of them as “not real reading.”  Many kids come into my library specifically in search of graphic novels. How can I overcome this resistance on the part of adults?

It’s unfortunate that there continue to be preconceived notions about, and even prejudices against, comics and GNs (assuming that “graphic” implies violent content, for example, or that they don’t constitute “literature”), when in truth graphic novels are simply a format, just like picture books are a format.

Within and across the graphic novel format is an incredible diversity of books, from entertaining and imaginative stories to intriguing books of information, from memoir and histories to complex fictional narratives comprising fantasy, realistic fiction and more. And within and across that format are books well suited to younger children and those aimed at older children, teens, and adults.  In other words, the only thing one graphic novel has in common with another is the format.

A display featuring a range of graphic novels is one way you could help underscore this.

Another thing you can point out or highlight is that graphic novels for children and teens regularly appear on annual best-of-the-year lists; some have also won awards for youth, including the Newbery Award for the most distinguished book for children published in the United States in a calendar year, and the Printz Award for literary excellence in young adult literature.

Additionally, because you are in a school library, it’s relevant that there are graphic novels that relate to subjects, topics and themes across the curriculum.  They also offer the opportunity to engage various types of learners.  And then, of course, as you already noted, they are incredibly appealing to many children and teens.

Finally, like any publishing, GNs vary widely in quality and content. Some are mediocre, and others are literary masterpieces.  Just as you would for any concern that is raised, take advantage of the opportunity to explain about your goals in building the library’s collection for young readers, interpreting how GNs help you meet those goals and the diverse needs and interests of children and teens the library serves as you follow the guidelines and criteria outlined in the board-approved policy and related procedures.

June 2020