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KAPOW! The Power of Kids Reading Comics & Graphic Novels

What happens when you combine a great story and colorful illustrations? A reading adventure like no other ensues! Through visuals and “bite-size” text, readers of all ages and abilities can enjoy comics and graphic novels. With Comic Book Day (September 25) right around the corner, discover the joys — and benefits — of your child reading these books.

BAM! The Origins of Comics and Graphic Novels

Drawings and illustrations have been used for centuries to tell stories, record history, and communicate ideas and political views. Political cartoons made their appearance in America with the publication of Benjamin Franklin's drawing “Join, or Die” in 1754, making it the first political cartoon to be printed in an American newspaper.[1] Decades later, illustrators took this same concept and drew comics.

Comics use panels of drawings that are accompanied by text, often appearing as speech bubbles, to tell a story. The first comic book, The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck, was published in 1837 and printed as a hardcover book in 1842.[2] Comic strips made their debut in newspapers in the 1890s. The comic “The Yellow Kid” by Richard Outcault is believed to be the first comic strip, and it was published in 1895 in New York World.[3]

Other newspapers caught on to the idea of publishing comic strips, and by the 1930s, entire sections of newspapers were devoted to comics. These comics featured a range of characters, from superheroes to detectives to talking animals. As the audience and demand grew, so did the medium: graphic novels. The term “graphic novels” was coined by Richard Kyle in 1964 to describe books that use panels of art and words in a sequential order to tell a story.[4] Today, graphic novels are a huge market for readers of all ages and reading levels.

BOOM! Helping Reluctant Readers

Onomatopoeia (words that imitate sounds) is used frequently in comics and graphic novels to describe a character’s action. Words like POW!, WHAM! and SPLAT! help young readers connect the words on the page to the activity in the story — plus, they’re fun to read out loud!

Carole Marsh, author of the James Bone – 007 Years-Old – Licensed to Dig graphic novel series, explains, “Studies have shown that kids love dramatic visuals and will read the 'sound bites' that explain the action. It is an incredible eye-opener for readers this age to manage a book from start to finish in a short time and realize, 'I can read a whole book!'"

The ability to read an entire book can boost a child’s confidence, especially if they are struggling with reading. Since comics and graphic novels have fewer pages than traditional books, there’s less space for text. This can help a reluctant reader feel less overwhelmed by the number of words on a page. By reading one panel at a time, readers can focus on just that chunk of text before moving on to the next panel.

A study conducted by the MinneTESOL Journal found that students who read a graphic novel versus a traditional novel scored higher in both reading comprehension and memory recall.[5] Readers can visualize what they are reading and make connections between the text and the illustrations. This helps them “make inferences and synthesize information,” according to Leslie Morrison from Northwestern University Center for Talent Development.[6]

ZOOM! Join the Fun

You don’t have to wear a cape and have superpowers to be your child’s biggest hero! Taking the time to enjoy comics and graphic novels together can make a lasting impression on your child. Here are a few ways to celebrate Comic Book Day and enjoy graphic novels and comics year-round.

1. Read Together

There are dozens of genres of comics and graphic novels to choose from. Superheroes, of course, are one of them, and so are manga, biographies, historical fiction, and comedy, just to name a few. Find one that your child enjoys and read it together. For fans of dinosaurs, explore our new graphic novel series, James Bone – 007 Years-Old – Licensed to Dig. You can take turns reading out loud, and for added fun, try acting out the scenes!

2. Watch the Movie or Show

Many comics have been adapted into movies and shows, but it isn’t just superhero franchises that made it to Hollywood; Annie, Peanuts, and The Addams Family were in newspaper comic strips before appearing on the big screen. After reading the comics, watch the movie version and ask your child to compare the plots and point out any differences or similarities they may have noticed.

3. Create a Comic

Now that you and your child are comic book experts, it’s time to design your own! Our free comic book template features multiple panels and speech bubbles for you and your child to draw and write in. After making your fun stories, email your creations to so we can see them!

For more fun ideas and free activities, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, be sure to check out our other blogs for even more resources!



[1] Bellis, Mary. “The Colorful History of Comic Books and Newspaper Cartoon Strips.” ThoughtCo, 2019 November 26, Accessed 20 September 2022.

[2] “National Comic Book Day.” National Day Calendar, Accessed 20 September 2022.

[3] Bellis, Mary. “The Colorful History of Comic Books and Newspaper Cartoon Strips.” ThoughtCo, 2019 November 26, Accessed 20 September 2022.

[4] Grey, Orrin. “What exactly are graphic novels, and where did the term originate?” The Portalist, 2021 December 29, Accessed 20 September 2022.

[5] Meuer, Stephen. “Reading Comprehension through Graphic Novels: How Comic Books and Graphic Novels.” MinneTESOL Journal, 34(2) Fall 2018,'s%20ability%20to,comprehension%20(Eisner%2C%201998). Accessed 21 September 2022.

[6] Morrison, Leslie. “The Research Behind Graphic Novels and Young Learners.” Northwestern University Center for Talent Development, 13 April 2017, Accessed 21 September 2022.



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