8 Reasons to Read Graphic Novels in Upper Elementary

For years, one of my goals as a teacher has been to transform reluctant readers into avid readers. But true confession…much of that time, there was one genre that didn’t get much of my attention, and that was graphic novels.

After watching the excitement graphic novels created in my struggling readers as well as proficient readers, I started to add graphic novels to our upper elementary classroom library.

Since that time, there have been a number of parents who have asked whether their kids should be reading graphic novels. They wonder if these books are helpful for their kids as readers.

I can easily tell them yes, and here are 8 reasons they’re beneficial for upper elementary kids.

1. Less Intimidating for Struggling Readers

When kids reach third grade, the text complexity and the greater expectations for readers (not just to read but to read to learn) make some student’s reading difficulties become more apparent.

Graphic novels are great for struggling readers because they’re more approachable to kids. With less text and more pictures than other books, they’re simply less scary!

2. High Interest – Low Readability

One of my favorite tools for reluctant readers in upper elementary is to use High Interest – Low Readability Books. While graphic novels come in a variety of readability levels, there are many titles out there that are perfect for struggling readers.

3. “Cool” Element

As kids get older, of course, they’re conscious of the types of books they read and the message those books send to kids their own age.

The beauty of graphic novels in upper elementary is that even though their readability may be at a lower level, they don’t look babyish. In fact, lots of proficient readers enjoy them as well.

4. Visual Images Support Comprehension

When kids are first learning to read, they rely heavily on a picture book’s illustrations to help them construct meaning.

Graphic novels are full of visual images which can be used as a scaffolding, to help readers piece together information they missed from the text, to help increase comprehension.

While some may think of this as a form of cheating, I like to think of the alternative.

I would much rather see a student choosing to read and enjoying a book, with some help from the illustrations, than avoiding books and pretending to read as an alternative.

5. Diversity of Characters and Life Situations

There are so many choices in graphic novels now, and they are written with a diversity of characters, both male and female, with all races and life situations.

This means that ALL of our students should be able to see themselves represented, which is a great thing. When we can relate more to a book’s characters and situations, we tend to feel more validated.

6. Builds Positive Book Associations

I love seeing a struggling reader feeling that sense of accomplishment from completing an entire book! Graphic novels can give kids this feeling and raise their confidence as readers, which results in them naturally wanting to read more.

For upper elementary students, this positive association with books leads to less avoidance and less giving up on a book too soon.

7. Includes Complex Story Elements

Even though graphic novels have less text, they still include complex story elements. Upper elementary readers will still see rich characters, strong plots, conflicts, and strong themes.

8. Prepares Readers for Other Genres

Another benefit of graphic novels is that they’re great “bridge” books, to help prepare struggling readers for other types of genres. As struggling readers experience growth, they are better able to tackle the greater demands of chapter books.

If you’d like more ideas about motivating struggling readers, you might like to read another post I wrote. Click here to read Motivating Reluctant Readers in Upper Elementary.

I love having graphic novels as an independent reading choice, but it’s also great to have sets of reading resources that are no-fluff, but are differentiated (three levels for each of passage and games and task cards for grades 3rd – 5th grade reading levels).

If you need some time-saving resources, you might like to take a look at these:

Main Idea Bundle Print and Digital

Text Evidence Activities Print and Digital for Google Slides™


Thanks so much for stopping by!

Let me know your favorite graphic novels in the comments below.


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Hi, I’m Jenn! With 20 years of teaching in the classroom and a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, my passion is to support teachers and their students by offering helpful teaching tips and quality resources. Thanks so much for joining me here!

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