Document Spotlight: Raising a Reader! or How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love To Read!

by Mychal Ludwig, Head Editor, INALJ New Mexico

Document Spotlight: Raising a Reader! or How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love To Read!

MychalLudwigThe publication, Raising a Reader! How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love To Read, presents the Comic Book Legal Defense Funds argument for protecting comic books and other sequential-art fiction from censorship and legal action by convincing educators of all stripes as well as parents that comic books are not only fun for their children, but represent something as impactful as high literature when it comes to raising and shaping our next generation.

This “Document Spotlight” consists of a photo-commentary tour of the comic book, presenting and remarking on the CBLDF’s (through author Meryl Jaffe, PhD) case that comics and graphic novels are as important as books when creating a life long reader and learner.


Presented itself as a comic book issue, mixing playful and inviting illustrations with sections of their textual argument, this meta-experience is meant not only to educate adults in one way or another, but delight any children or young adults who might thumb through its pages.

Immediately, author Meryl Jaffe states that while, sure, comics are fun, this isn’t simply playtime for children, they also impart important visual and verbal literacy skills that are crucial for critical thinking and memory. Comics are fun, and learning can be fun. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.


The first main section, “What Graphic Novels Offer Kids” simply details the broad benefits of having young people read and look at graphic fiction:

• Visual Literacy
• Exciting experiences for all sorts of readers
• Graphic fiction is by its nature engaging
• The quality, quantity, & diversity of graphic fiction rivals standard fiction


Including a bit of a how-to, this section conveys the basics of reading and looking at comic book panels and pages:

• What is a panel?
• Panel borders
• Importance of layout/arrangement
• Space between panels are known as “gutters”
• Word balloons and their varied uses

I would suggest reading Scott McCloud’s seminal work “Understanding Comics” for an in-depth understanding of the history of sequential art and fiction and how to read and get meaning from comics. Similar to this document, it’s presented as a graphic novel (also known as a trade, or trade paperback)


This section goes into more detail concerning the use of graphic novels in creating dialogues between readers/learners, and the different ways to read one, which are largely the same as a normal book:

• Solo story exploration, aka “alone time”
• Use in read-alouds
• Use as book club selections
• Graphic novels paired with prose novels as a contrast and gateway to standard fiction


This section explores how graphic novels are being used in modern education, both in a classroom, or in a library:

• Graphic novels empower modern learners and relate to modern forms of communication and visual literacy
• Graphic novels attract all types and levels of reader
• Graphic novels fit National Common Core State Standard mandates (so can be used in formal educational contexts)
• Graphic novels strengthen multiple learning skills that apply in both formal and informal settings including memory, visual sequencing, and language among others


The CBLDF column “Using Graphic Novels in Education” specifically focuses on the content of banned or challenged graphic fiction, discussing the issues surrounding these texts and how they can be utilized in teaching/learning. For example:

• Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
• American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
• The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long, Jim Demonakos, and Nate Powell


Like the ALA’s Freedom To Read statement, Raising a Reader! Ends with the statement on “Protecting Kids’ Right To Read!” discussing how graphic novels are as important as prose fiction, film, television, and other entertainment/education media.

Gotta love Babymouse defending free speech.

For Futher Information:

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
• Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics
• ALA Freedom to Read statement
• ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom