Growing Bookworms: In Defense of #GraphicNovels for Kids' #SummerReading

FirstDayOfSummerReadingMiaJust in time for kids' summer reading, I ran across two articles last week defending graphic novels as "real reading." Here I share some notes from those articles together with my response based on my experience with my daughter [pictured on her first morning of summer vacation, as I was trying to get her to rally to leave the house.]

In the first, written two years ago, librarian Molly Wetta at Book Riot shares her Annual Reminder that Graphic Novels are "Real" Reading. As far as I can tell, there's nothing much in this piece that is any less relevant today than it was two years ago. Molly  says:

"I love helping children select books they’re excited to read, and delight in finding them titles based on their own interests and reading tastes. However, without fail, I will encounter parents who are not allowing their children to read graphic novels, or are telling kids these “don’t count.”"

She then shares a number of talking points that she has developed for parents and other caregivers on the literary merit of graphic novels for kids. She also links to some lists of recommended titles (though these will not include the very latest releases, of course). Her arguments about the benefits of graphic novels for visual learners and the way that graphic novels help kids learn to make inferences are well worth a look

The second piece I came across was a recent blog post written by teacher Pernille Ripp titled Not Too Easy - Embracing Graphic Novels at Home. Pernille begins by reminding readers that graphic novels are the biggest reason that her oldest daughter believes in herself as a reader. She notes that despite kids' enthusiasm for graphic novels:

"... one of the biggest push backs in reading also happens to surround graphic novels with many parents and educators lamenting their “easiness.” Within these missives lies a movement to then steer kids away from these “dessert” books and into “harder” reading, or outright banning the reading of graphic novels, telling kids that these books are just for fun, don’t count toward whatever set goal or points, or even confiscating them from kids seen reading them."

In the remainder of her post, she shares reasons why parents should defend their children's reading of graphic novels, and why they are not, in fact, too easy. She notes that in her own experience "it is the pictures that actually add to the sophistication and difficulty of graphic novels because of the skills required to read the images."

LunchLadyReadingThis point meets with my own experience. Not having grown up reading graphic novels, or even as much of a fan of comic books, I find graphic novels difficult to read. I'm much more in my comfort zone reading linear text. When I have to move back and forth between the pictures and text bubbles, and potentially other text from a narrator, I don't know where to put my focus. Although I could certainly enhance my skills in this area, my point is that reading integrated text and pictures is a zone of relative weakness for me as a reader. My daughter, on the other hand, is a master at this. She has been devouring graphic novels since I first slipped Jarrett Krosoczka's Lunch Lady books into her eager hands (about three years ago, see photo to the left). And for what it's worth, despite what remains a primarily graphic novel diet, her standardized test and other reading scores are more than sufficient. 

Pernille also adds, in response to concerns that kids plow through graphic novels too quickly:

"However, here there is one distinction in the habit of many readers of graphic novels; while they may read the graphic novel quickly on the first try, what often happens then is the re-reads of the same graphic novel as they pore over the pages more closely once they have navigated the story once. This process is one that only adds value as their understanding deepens with each re-read." 

This certainly meets with my experience in watching my graphic novel-obsessed daughter. When a new graphic novel lands in her hands (particularly if it is from a series that she already enjoys) she sits down with it immediately and plows through it. She will often finish in less than half an hour. The other day she did this with Red's Planet, Book 2 and suggested to me that I should be borrowing graphic novels instead of purchasing them, since she reads them so quickly.

MegJoBethBut she re-reads them. Sometimes many times. Sometimes many times over a few days (as recently occurred with Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy: A Modern Retelling  of Little Women) and sometimes after a break (Invisible Emmie and companion titles). I find it fascinating to watch as she reads the same book over time, extracting different levels of meaning. Even though she can read them quickly, I consider purchasing these books a worthwhile investment. 

One other point: a commenter on Twitter argued (after I shared Pernille's piece) that a steady diet of graphic novels can harm some kids' ability to be able to visualize on their own. If they are spoon-fed illustrated stories, the argument appears to go, they become less able to make their own pictures when reading non-illustrated texts. I don't know about the research in this area, and I could imagine this being the case for struggling readers. What I do know is that my daughter says that she has no difficulty at all visualizing when she reads standard texts, and that she thinks reading graphic novels and picture books has helped in her case. 

But I am running on. There's lots of other material for parents to help understand the benefits of graphic novels in Pernille's piece. Please do go and read the whole thing, along with Molly Wetta's piece. Take their guidance, together with my family's experience, as you  decide whether or not to encourage your children to read graphic novels this summer. My take is: yes, graphic novels are real reading. They have their own distinct benefits. Most important: kids love them, which bolsters reading choice (and hence reading itself). 

[See also this link to a list of articles defending graphic novels for kids, maintained by Jess Keating.]

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage. Links to be books may be affiliate links, for which I receive a small commission.

News Release: Barnes and Noble Surveys Readers on #SummerReading Plans + Balancing #Reading + #ScreenTime

There's some food for thought in the following press release from Barnes and Noble. They share the results of an online survey of 1,502 adults in the United States who plan to read a book this summer. The sample included 1,001 respondents who are the parents of school-aged children between 6 and 17 years old.

I think it's important to note that this is a sample that is biased towards being pro-reading already. Still, among that sample, the results seem to me to be a mix of encouraging ["70% (of parents) said summer reading for their kids is just as important as reading during the school year"] and depressing [while most parents want their kids to spend some time device free, the bar for that seemed very low, including spending an hour or two offline per day]. News release is below: 

Put Down the Phone, Pick Up a Book:
Most Readers Plan to Break the Electronics Habit
and Focus on Reading This Summer, New Survey Shows

In Push for More Device-Free Time, 9-of-10 Parents Will Ask Their Children to Sign Off to Read, According to Barnes & Noble-Commissioned Independent Study

New York, NY – June 12, 2019 A large majority of American readers (80%) plan to put away their cell phones to focus on reading this summer, according to an independent survey of 1,500 reading adults commissioned by Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest retail bookseller. Of those expressing the desire to make reading a priority, many have vowed not to look at their phones for between 30 minutes and two hours during each reading session.  


The survey, conducted in early May by the market research company Atomik Research, also showed nearly 90% of parents with children between six- and 17-years old plan to ask their youngsters not to use electronic devices like cell phones and video games during certain periods of time during the summer. Of those, 44% said they want their kids to be device-free for more than three hours; 21% would be happy if their kids were off phones and videos for one-to-two hours a day.

“Parents have high hopes for themselves and their kids when it comes to reading habits this summer,” said Tim Mantel, Executive Vice President and Chief Merchandising Officer for Barnes & Noble. “The desire to impose device-free time on themselves and their children was very strong among survey respondents, an indication of the importance of reading across generations.”

In fact, 61% of parents surveyed said summer reading is very important to their families, and 70% said summer reading for their kids is just as important as reading during the school year. In a sign that reading is a shared activity in many households, 69% of parents said their families read together during the summer, with more than half of parents (55%) planning to read the same books as their children this summer so they can have a bonding experience.

Parents also have high expectations of the number of books their children should read this summer, compared with the broader sample.  Of the 1,500 readers surveyed, 38% hope to read one to three books this summer, while 37% hope to read four to six books. Among parents, 35% want their child/children to read four to six books this summer, 26% want them to read 10 or more books, and 25% want them to read one to three books.

What (and How) Will They Be Reading?

Among the full sample of readers, 48% said they plan to read books in the mystery genre this summer, 37% in the history genre, 34% in the fantasy genre and 33% in the science fiction genre.

Sixty-nine percent of summer readers said they will most often read a print book. Nearly a quarter (24%) of summer readers will most often read a book on an electronic device, while seven percent will listen to an audiobook. Of those reading or listening on a device, 34% will use an e-Reader, 34% will use a cell phone and 32% will use a tablet.

In Storytelling, Books Win the Day

The survey also found that when it comes to storytelling, books are favored over movies and television programs hands down. Respondents said that when a television show or movie is based on a book, more than three-quarters (77%) of both summer readers and parents say the book is usually better than television show or movie.

"Even with the amazing technology in modern film-making and the broad variety of television programming, respondents still enjoy the reading experience more in terms of storytelling," Mr. Mantel said.  "The idea of curling up with a good book never loses its appeal."

Research Methodology:

Barnes & Noble commissioned Atomik Research to conduct an online survey of 1,502 adults in the United States who plan to read a book this summer. The sample included 1,001 respondents who are the parents of school-aged children between 6 and 17 years old. The margin of error fell within +/- 3 percentage points, with a confidence interval of 95%. The fieldwork took place from May 7-9, 2019.  Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency.

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: June 14: #GraphicNovels, #SummerReading + the #ToBeWritten List

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this fairly busy week include #BookLists, #FathersDay, #GraphicNovels, #Homeschool, #NoSummerSlide, #PoetryFriday, #PuzzleBooks, #ScreenTime, learning, publishing, reading, research, and testing.

Top Tweet of the Week

RealFriendsGood stuff here! Annual Reminder from @molly_wetta for parents that #GraphicNovels are "Real" Reading |@BookRiot #SummerReading #JoyOfReading

Book Lists

Ten #PictureBooks for #FathersDay | #library display / #BookList suggestions from @abbylibrarian

10 Cozy + Magical #PictureBooks by Megan Wagner Lloyd | @nerdybookclub #BookList

Is there a book about... Jennifer Wharton shares #PictureBook #BookLists for common bibliotherapy requests that #librarians may receive #Adoption #Emotions + lots more

MadLibsBest #PuzzleBooks for Kids: The Perfect Travel Companion, timely #BookList from @momandkiddo | #MadLibs, Mazes + lots more

50+ #YA Paperbacks For 2019 #SummerReading | Detailed + varied #BookList from Kelly Jensen @BookRiot, organized by release date

Do We Expect #Nonfiction to Be Serious? — @fuseeight looks at some of the funnier books of 2019 to see how they do with the challenge | #PictureBooks #GraphicNovels

Educations Research

New research shows lower test scores for 4th graders who use tablets in #schools, but some types of computer use by older #students do help | @jillbarshay @hechingerreport #testing #ScreenTime

Ask the Cognitive Scientist: Should #Teachers Know the Basic #Science of How Children Learn? | Yes, says @DTWillingham in #AmericanEducator

Growing Bookworms / Summer Reading

#NoSummerSlide Week 2 – #FathersDay Ideas for families to enhance #Literacy from @TheReadingTub

Not Too Easy – Embracing #GraphicNovels at Home – thoughts from @pernilleripp on the benefits of visual complexity, re-reading + generally enticing books

There's some fun stuff in @ReadBrightly's #SummerReading Challenge for Kids — 2019 Edition, but I agree w/ @jennifergarry that parents should NOT make #reading a chore

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

HappyKidCan + Should Traditionally Published Authors Market Their E-books? @gail_gauthier has some thoughts + experience w/ this ? | #ebooks #publishing

At Two Writing Teachers, @BethMooreSchool suggests that teachers use a #ToBeWritten List (like a #TBR list) to encourage summer #writing

Are You Book ‘Poly’? asks @ehbluemle @PWKidsBookshelf | Me, I'm usually #reading at least 1 book on Kindle, 1 in print + 1 #audiobook | Sometimes more to mix #fiction + #nonfiction

Ten Unpopular Bookish Opinions from @literacious | I kind of want to get her "All #reading is good reading" (re: kids) put on t-shirts and make people wear them around the neighborhood.

Most Comprehensive Review To Date Finds The Average Person’s #ReadingSpeed Is Slower Than Previously Thought – @mattbwarren @ResearchDigest | Implications for #teachers in declaring "slow readers"?


PeasAndCarrots"When Tanita hugs you" -- I loved this skinny poem by @kellyfineman, but now I want a hug from @tanita_s_davis | #PoetryFriday

Schools and Libraries

This makes sense to me! Why the #School Nurse’s Office Should Have a Well-Stocked #Library by Melissa McDonald and @mrsmelanieroy @nerdybookclub

#Memorization is Not a Bad Thing says @gcouros | Students may not need to memorize dates, but should spend time discussing + #learning implications of events

What's it Like Switching from #Homeschool to #PublicSchool, and why might families do it? @mamasmiles

Why #Homeschool? 10 Great Reasons to Consider #Homeschooling from @mamasmiles | Time, personalization + more

The Secret Source of Lost #Learning + Educator Burnout | Musings from @rickhess99 on the impact of excessive paperwork in #schools


#STEM Tuesday Spin Off @MGBookVillage | Let it Rain STEM! @marykaycarson looks at science, technology, engineering + math re: rain, w/ #kidlit recommendations

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage

Tips for Parents to Encourage #SummerReading

I wrote this article upon request for my daughter's school website, and am sharing a slightly edited version here. 

Summer Slide is a well-documented phenomenon in which students' academic performance slips over the summer break. One report found that "on average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning". The good news is that the solution to a Summer Slide in reading scores is simple: get your kids to read over the summer break. 

Of course that's easier said than done. Kids are busy with camps and other activities. They often prefer to spend their free time playing with their friends or poking around on their tablets instead of reading books. And if you try to force them to spend time reading they may well resist you on principle. "It's my summer vacation! I don't HAVE to read and YOU can't make me!". Etc. 

The trick is to make reading enjoyable, so that your kids will choose to do it. Scholastic runs an extensive survey on family reading every two years. This year's Kids and Family Reading Report identified three factors that are common to kids who read frequently for pleasure:

  1. Choice over what they read;
  2. Access to lots of books; and
  3. Reading role models

[See another post I wrote about the KFRR results here.] With those results in mind, here are seven tips for making reading enjoyable for your kids this summer:

  1. KFRR_Access_HighResDownload_Fig6Let them choose what they want to read. This is the MOST important thing you can do as a parent to encourage reading for pleasure. Do not give in to the temptation to "encourage" your daughter to read books that you like, or books that you think are good for her. Do not visibly cringe when all your son wants to read for the entire summer are Dog Man or Goosebumps books. The important thing is that your children are reading books that they THEY enjoy. Re-reading books or reading books that seem to you to be too easy for them gives them valuable practice. Eventually they will choose to move on to more challenging fare and then they'll enjoy that, too. I think it's fine to show them the Battle of the Books lists or other recommended reading lists, but then step back and let them choose those books if and only if they feel inspired. 
  2. Read aloud to them, no matter how old they are. This is one of the things that the kids in the Scholastic survey report that they love most. They love the attention and the closeness. And by reading to them you can read books that are a bit too challenging for them to read on their own, expanding their vocabularies and narrative sense. Reading together is a win on many levels. Even if you are out of the habit, summer is a good time to try again. If you're not comfortable, you could also try listening to audiobooks together. 
  3. Let them see you reading. This works best if you read books or magazines in print. When you are on your tablet, they probably assume that you are texting or doing social media. But if they see you curled up on the couch with a book, TV off, they will be more likely to make that choice themselves. 
  4. Take them to the library or the bookstore (and again, let them choose). Kids are sometimes fickle. What they want to read today may not be what they want to read tomorrow. Having lots of choices, readily available around your house, will make kids more likely to choose to read. 
  5. Keep books in convenient locations in your house. The could be the breakfast table, the bathrooms, the bedrooms, or (as in my house) all of the above. Again, if the books are there, and they are books that your child has chosen (or there are a lot of books for her to choose from), you will increase the chance that your child will decide to read. 
  6. Consider giving your kids flashlights or headlamps to make reading in bed more fun.
  7. Limit screens, at least some of the time, so that your child has some time to read. Something that has worked well for me is not to allow my daughter (age 9) to use her tablet in the car unless the drive is at least 30 minutes. I keep a bin of books in the car (well, ok, two bins) and change the books out regularly. Most of the time, when we are driving to the orthodontist or softball or whatever, my daughter is reading. Often when she has friends in the car with her, they are all reading. Some of my favorite times are when I can listen to them talk to each other about books, smiling quietly to myself. 

A note on Summer Reading programs. There are many programs that focus on getting kids reading. Most of them give prizes for meeting certain milestones. Our PTO Language Arts Chair found this list of 17 Free Summer Reading Programs. I'm not personally a fan of giving kids extrinsic rewards for reading because some studies have shown that the kids will stop reading once the rewards stop coming. But for kids who are extremely reluctant to read, programs like this might offer the push that you need to get them started. Sometimes all it takes is for a child to find the right book, that one book that hooks him, and then he'll be a reader for life. Or at least for this summer, which is the immediate goal. 

See also this post, which is about Scholastic's findings regarding a decline in kids reading for pleasure at age 9.

Thanks for reading and happy summer. 

Literacy Milestone: Encouraging Others to Read More

LiteracyMilestoneARecently my daughter experienced a bookworm success. She encouraged my husband to get back  into the habit of reading in bed before falling asleep. He had developed a pattern of working on his computer after she and I went to bed and then watching some TV to unwind. Concerned that he wasn't getting enough sleep, she started lobbying him to get to bed earlier and to read in bed to unwind instead.

When he protested that he couldn't read in bed because the light would wake me, she suggested that he start reading on my old Kindle Paperwhite, with the brightness turned way down. She ranted at him about how TV isn't good for his brain and reading is, that reading would help him to fall asleep, and so on. Yes, I've created a pro-reading zealot. I couldn't be more proud.  

HungerGamesBook1Always one to encourage reading, I cooperated by charging up the old device and loading it up with some books that he was interested in. And now ... at least some of the time, my husband is going to bed earlier and reading. If I happen to wake up I do see the tiny glow of the Kindle, but in this context I find it satisfying. My daughter cared enough to essentially badger my husband into finding a way to read in bed. My husband cared enough about her to listen, and to change his routine. 

It turns out that choosing to re-read the Hunger Games books may not have been the best choice for increasing his sleep, though, because now he's staying up late to read. But you can't have everything. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms (of all ages)!

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage