"Oh this is the nerd section."said a mother to her 5 year-old daughter heading toward the graphic novel section in the library. She then steered her away to what she deemed more suitable reading material. This is just one of many random comments I overheard that dismiss graphic novels and comic books as a lesser form of literature. Our society seems regard them as dumbed down books full of violence, sexual objectification of women, and unrealistically buff, caucasian men running around in capes.
Image from Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics"
Please do yourselves a favor and don’t fall for those stupid oversimplified labels. GRAPHIC NOVELS ARE AWESOME! They are complex, diverse, severely underrated works of art and they deserve a chance, not just from kids, but from EVERYONE! One of my biggest regrets is that I spent the first 23 years of my life snubbing graphic novels. If it wasn't my for an my friend, Mary Uhles, who introduced me to my first graphic novel, I may never have discovered the remarkable world of Scott McCloud, Craig Thompson, Jillian Tamaki, and hundreds of other brilliant authors and illustrators. I've been reading them like crazy ever since trying to make up for lost time. The world of graphic novels is bigger and better than ever and it’s time people started taking advantage of it. Here are 4 reasons why you need to get yourself to the nearest bookstore/library and start reading a graphic novel TODAY!
1. Visuals Help you Retain Information
Just think about it. Teachers have long used pictures, graphs, maps, and visual demonstrations to help their students retain information. Not only do visuals catch people’s attention, it leaves an imprint. Graphic novels do the same thing.There are tons of informative nonfiction graphic novels out there that allow the readers to digest information on a level that text alone cannot achieve.
2. They are Fast Paced
I guarantee that you will read more if you start reading graphic novels. They are the kind of books that keep you up till 4 in the morning because you simply can’t put them down. I usually struggle to stay awake past the first two pages when reading a regular novel at night, but graphic novels are a whole different story! They pull you in. They carry you at a pace unmatched by other all genres. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
3. They Exercise the Brain in Different Ways
When reading graphic novels we learn to pay attention to detail, drawing from visual cues to deduce information not given in the text. You have to learn how to interpret pictures as well as the text. It is a highly participatory form of reading that calls both the right and the left side of your brain to action.
4. They Encourage Empathy
Pictures can be incredibly powerful tools in helping you crawl inside character’s skin and feel what they are feeling. There’s something about visually seeing a look on someone’s face or the posture in their shoulders that impact you more powerfully than words can.
I’m not trying to say that graphic novels are better than other forms of literature. That’s not what this post is about. I’m just saying the graphic novels are a totally legitimate and can be remarkable assets to your personal library. Diversity is good. When you avoid graphic novels because they’re in “the nerd section” you are limiting yourself. You’re missing out on a wonderfully unique and magical experience. Don’t do that. Give yourself permission to try something new. Read a graphic novel. I promise you won't regret it!