How Graphic Novels And Comics Can Help Struggling Readers

If your child thinks reading is a chore, s/he’s more likely not going to be thrilled when asked to sit down and read a book. s/He has reading issues. And for kids with reading issues, traditional books aren’t the way to go. How do we get them interested in reading? Being too critical about their selection of reading materials certainly doesn’t help. 

Children who read comics or graphic novels develop literacy skills in the same way children without reading issues develop such skills when they read traditional books. In other words, graphic novels can also help improve language and literacy development.

What’s more, comics and graphic novels appeal to both avid and reluctant readers. They use vibrant images to engage reluctant readers. Their stories are driven mainly by visuals. Text comes next.

Like many of us, kids, too, tend to find visually-driven books far more exciting. Here are 5 ways graphic novels and comics can help struggling readers:

They look fun and feel more approachable.

They’re are accessible and easier to read.

Their images help support comprehension of text.

They give kids a taste of reading success.

They help kids build key reading skills and strategies.

Below are graphic novels and illustrated books that promise to draw in even the most reluctant reader. These are just examples. You don’t have buy them. You may buy any comics or graphic novels you could easily find at the nearest bookstore in your area.

1. Drawing From Memory by Allen Say Caldecott

Drawing from Memory is Allen Say’s own story of his path to becoming the renowned artist he is today. Shunned by his father, who didn’t understand his son’s artistic leanings, Allen was embraced by Noro Shinpei, Japan’s leading cartoonist and the man he came to love as his “spiritual father.” As WWII raged, Allen was further inspired to consider questions of his own heritage and the motivations of those around him. He worked hard in rigorous drawing classes, studied, trained – and ultimately came to understand who he really is.

Buy the book HERE

2. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother’s room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.

Buy the book HERE

3. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

This inspired collection of short stories is based on the original illustrations of Chris Van Allsburg in his esteemed and mysterious THE MYSTERIES OF HARRIS BURDICK and features many remarkable, best-selling authors in the worlds of both adult and children’s literature: Sherman Alexie, M.T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Cory Doctorow, Jules Feiffer, Stephen King, Tabitha King, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Walter Dean Myers, Linda Sue Park, Louis Sachar, Jon Scieszka, Lemony Snicket, and Chris Van Allsburg himself. This gorgeous gift book makes an esteemed addition to any home or classroom library.

Buy the book HERE

4. Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson

It’s Rafe Khatchadorian’s first day at Hills Village Middle School, and it’s shaping up to be the worst year ever. He has enough problems at home without throwing his first year of middle school into the mix, but luckily he’s got an ace plan for the best year ever, if only he can pull it off. With his best friend, Leonardo the Silent, awarding him points, Rafe tries to break every rule in his school’s oppressive code of conduct. Chewing gum in class: 5,000 points! Running in the hallway: 10,000 points! Pulling the fire alarm: 50,000 points! But not everyone thinks Rafe’s plan is a good idea, especially not the teachers, parents, and bullies who keep getting in his way. Will Rafe decide that winning is the only thing that matters? Are things about to go from magic to tragic?

Buy the book HERE

5) Around the World by Matt Phelan

As the nineteenth century wound down, a public inspired by the novel Around the World in Eighty Days clamored for intrepid adventure. The challenge of circumnavigating the globe as no one ever had before—a feat assuring fame if not fortune—attracted the fearless in droves. Three hardy spirits stayed the course: In 1884, former miner Thomas Stevens made the journey on a bicycle, the kind with a big front wheel. In 1889, pioneer reporter Nellie Bly embarked on a global race against time that assumed the heights of spectacle, ushering in the age of the American celebrity. And in 1895, retired sea captain Joshua Slocum quietly set sail on a thirty-six-foot sloop, braving pirates and treacherous seas to become the first person to sail around the world alone. With cinematic pacing and deft, expressive art, acclaimed graphic novelist Matt Phelan weaves a trio of epic journeys into a single bold tale of three visionaries who set their sights on nothing short of the world.

Buy the book HERE

6) The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by Michael Chabon

Awesome Man can shoot positronic rays out of his eyeballs, fly as straight asan arrow, and hug mutant Jell-O! Even villains like Professor Von Evil and the Flaming Eyeball are no match for this caped crusader. But Awesome Man also has a secret. Can you guess what it is? The first picture book from Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon perfectly captures the fantasy life of young superhero fans.

Buy the book HERE

7) Stickman Odyssey 1 by Christopher Ford

When Zozimos is banished by an evil witch (his stepmother!) from the kingdom of Sticatha-the kingdom he was next in line to rule-he trains at battle (if you call chasing after butterflies training), travels across stormy seas (thanks for that, Poseidon), slays golems and monsters (with a lot of help), charms beautiful women (not really), and somehow (despite his own ineptitude) survives quest after quest. By the love of Zeus, though, none of it brings him any closer to home!

Buy the book HERE

8) Stickman Odyssey 2 by Christopher Ford

Zozimos’ journey to the kingdom of Sticatha has been anything but smooth. He’s survived enslavement, battled golems and a ravenous Cyclops, and generally served as plaything to gods and goddesses looking for a good laugh. All for the sake of reclaiming the Sticathan royal throne–stolen from him by an evil witch, aka his stepmother. You’d think that a stickman would catch a break after all that, but you’d be wrong. Arriving home only brings crazy family members and a return trip to sea, where mercenary centaurs and giant boar gods keep Zozimos questing and readers laughing. It would all be an epic tragedy if it wasn’t so funny.

Buy the book HERE

9) The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow

After spending six months apart in Book Two, best friends Julie and Lydia are reunited at last! Julie has said good-bye to the mean girls, and Lydia is ready to apply her hard-earned friendship lessons to founding their own crew. But bad news interrupts their reunion: their friend Sukie’s mother, ill for many years, has passed away. This shakes Lydia and Julie, who reevaluate their goals and decide to focus more on being supportive of the friends they have. Unfortunately, their well-meaning schemes almost immediately start to go awry, and everyone seems to be mad at them for reasons beyond their control. How can they be better friends when no one seems to want to give them the chance? As always, Julie and Lydia’s hilarious back-and-forth notes form the backbone of the novel, in which Amy Ignatow reveals all-too-real truths about friendship and loyalty.

Buy the book HERE

10) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

Buy the book HERE

Can’t afford to buy books at the moment. Worry not. The following are online resources (courtesy of ReadingVine) that can navigate you towards a list of more comics and graphic novels written just for kids:

a) Graphic Novels: Read the Pictures – This Reading Rockets’ webpage includes reviews of books for children aged 3 through 12. These comics can be read independently or with a parent, and can help build reading comprehension skills.

b) Toon Books – This website offers to help kid “toon into reading” with comic books designed especially for school-aged children. It divides its books into different age categories using both reading and interest level.

c) The Best Graphic Novels for Children – This list, published by the American Library Association. No matter what his reading level, you should be able to find something that is just right for your child.

d) How Comics Helped my Kid Love Reading – This article, by Common Sense Media includes some great graphic novel titles you might want to explore.


Baigelman, L. (2019, October 04). 5 Reasons Graphic Novels Can Help Kids With Reading. Retrieved August 16, 2020, from

Botzakis, S. (2013). Why I teach comics in higher education. Knowledge Quest41(3), 68.

Muniran, F., & Yusof, M. R. M. (2008). Using comics and graphic novels in school and libraries to promote literacies. Library & Information Science Unit, Faculty of Computer Science & Information Technology, University of Malaya.

Monnin, K. (2011). Teaching early reader comics and graphic novels. Maupin House Publishing, Inc.

Monnin, K. (2011). Teaching early reader comics and graphic novels. Maupin House Publishing, Inc.

McVicker, C. J. (2007). Comic strips as a text structure for learning to read. The reading teacher61(1), 85-88.

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