In my time working at a public library, I have helped countless kids and families find “just right” books. When kids are learning to read independently, having the right balance between familiar and challenging words makes a book "just right".
But so often, I’m struck by the adults who come into the library asking for “real books” for their elementary-aged student. I know what they mean: they’re looking for chapter books without pictures. Once kids hit a certain age, adults seem to think the time for picture books is over.
More than once, I’ve overheard adults discourage their children from choosing graphic novels or familiar favorites in favor of books “for kids their age.” My heart breaks for a child being told a book they love is off-limits because they’re older.
Childhood is fleeting and children are so quickly ushered from stage to stage without ceremony. As a teacher, I cringed when I heard my colleagues tell their new students “This isn’t ___ grade anymore,” implying that whatever expectations the child has should be left behind. There are gentler ways to help children transition from one stage to the next.
While children are constantly dealing with transitions, adults can allow them the freedom to choose the books they want to read. Books are tools that help us gain knowledge, certainly. But they’re so much more than that. Books tell us comforting stories and take us on adventures. They teach us lessons about life and how to be a good person.
I’m here to tell you the children’s librarian philosophy: all reading is good reading. I say this as someone with experience teaching children to read and as someone who hopes to instill a love of reading into all kids. There are no books that are “too easy.” All reading is good reading.
Here are a few of the common concerns I hear from caregivers when visiting the library with children:
Rereading the same book over and over might seem like a waste of time, but look closer. When a child rereads a book, perhaps they’re noticing details they missed before. I see this a lot with nonfiction books, especially when there are lots of sidebars and photo captions to take in. Rereading these books helps a child absorb the vast amount of knowledge in a book.
Kids who reread books likely get something new out of each experience. Perhaps they have a stronger vocabulary and are able to understand words they didn’t know before. Maybe they’ve gained some background knowledge and the historical context of a story is clearer this time around.
Finally, remember that rereading a book may be a comfort to a child. Familiar stories bring peace and calm. You know you’ve instilled the love of reading in your child when they have favorite books they return to again and again.
Many adults aren’t familiar with graphic novels because they’re a relatively recent development in children’s literature. Graphic novels are similar to comic books but cover a wide variety of genres and topics, including contemporary fiction, memoir, history, biography, science, mythology, and so much more!
I have heard adults talk about graphic novels as an alternative to “real books,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Graphic novels are just another vehicle for storytelling. There are plenty of benefits to reading graphic novels. The illustrations can help promote comprehension and provide context clues for new, advanced vocabulary. They can expose readers to classic literature and mythology in an approachable form. They are a great way to encourage reluctant readers to read more. And, most importantly, they are a lot of fun to read!
Don’t discourage a child from reading books they enjoy. Remember, all reading is good reading. Many graphic novels earn literary awards, like Newbery Medal-winner New Kid by Jerry Craft.
If you feel strongly that graphic novels are not reading, pick one up and see for yourself what all the hype is about. You’re likely to be pleasantly surprised.
Next time you visit the library or let your child browse for books online, take a step back and let them make the choices. Remember the mantra “all reading is good reading,” and see what books they are drawn to. You can learn about their interests and tastes while promoting a lifelong love of reading.