Volume 31 Issue 14 20 May 2022 19 Iyyar 5782

Why graphic novels?

Samantha Rogut Head of Library and Information Services K-6

Why graphic novels?

Graphic novels form part of the Primary Library collection and have proven to be so popular that they now have their own dedicated shelf space. Graphic novels are a mode or form of literature rather than a genre; however, their popularity has prompted us to create a graphic novel genre within the collection. All graphic novels are marked with a pink and white spine label indicating their genre.

 The graphic novel section in the Primary Library is continually expanding as new, quality novels are purchased. A quality graphic novel includes elements of comic style page layout with gutters, boxes and speech or thought bubbles. They must also contain a complex narrative, and both sophisticated vocabulary and sentence structure.

These elements coupled with quality graphics and impactful layout make for an exceptional reading experience.




There are many reasons to showcase the graphic novel collection in the Primary Library:

  • Graphic novels may help students to develop a love of reading. Students may choose the text based on the graphic element or narrative content, unknowingly creating a reading challenge for themselves as they navigate “two themes at once. Not only navigating multiple modes, but also navigating and using multiple strategies and literary devices at once to make meaning of the text” (Bender, 2018, p. 114).
  • They may become an entrée into traditional prose texts. Often students will read the graphic novel and then request the prose version of the story. “A well-done graphic novel offers the immediacy of the prose reading experience, with the pictures and the words working simultaneously, making a graphic novel not only something one reads but something one sees as well, like reading and watching a movie at the same time” (Gallo & Weiner, 2004, p. 115).
  • Graphic novels provide opportunities to comprehend ‘multimodal texts’ in a world full of them. Think of the many forms of social media used today. Graphic novels can be used as instruments when discussing a range of concepts such as “narrative structures, metaphor and symbolism, points of view and the use of puns and alliteration, intertextuality and inference” (Crawford & Weiner, 2012, p. 8).
  • They may assist in the development of vocabulary and language use. Stephan Krashen (as cited in Jaffe & Hurwich, 2018) concluded that graphic novels offer 20% more rare vocabulary than traditional chapter books and that by reading a comic book every day young readers process about 500,000 words a year, of which most are “complex vocabulary with a respectable level of difficulty.”

Whilst all of these are valid reasons for showcasing graphic novels, on the most basic level graphic novels are just fun to read. They require the reader to interrogate not just the text, but the placement of, and details of the images, as well as the depth and breadth of the gutters in which they are contained. They are interesting, engaging texts.

We have many quality graphic novels in the Primary Library for the students to borrow and read. They are also fantastic reading for adults as well!

Below is a list of some of our favourites:

  • The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Illiad and The Odyssey, Homer
  • Alex Rider Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz
  • The Amulet series, Kazu Kibuishi
  • To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee
  • The Baby-sitters Club series, Ann M. Martin
  • White Bird, R. J. Palacio
  • Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan


  • Bender, A. A. (2018). Making meaning: Using graphic novels in a sixth-grade English language arts classroom (Order No. 13809036). Available from ProQuest One
  • Academic; Social Science Premium Collection. (2198783625). Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.usyd.edu.au/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/making-meaning-using-graphic-novels-sixth-grade/docview/2198783625/se-2?accountid=14757
  • Crawford, P. C., & Weiner, S. (2012). Using graphic novels with children and teens: a guide for teachers and librarians. Jefferson City, MO: Graphix.
  • Gallo, D., & Weiner, S. (2004). Bold books for innovative teaching: Show, don’t tell: Graphic novels in the classroom. English Journal, 94(2), 114-117.
  • Jaffe, Meryl, and Talia Hurwich. (2018) Worth a Thousand Words: Using Graphic Novels to Teach Visual and Verbal Literacy, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. ProQuest Ebook