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Experienced parents know that the amount of reading their child does will have a direct and positive impact on his reading fluency and vocabulary development. That is why graphic novels--which we used to refer to as comic books--though once relegated to the category of lowbrow reading, are now experiencing a surge in popularity.

You may think that the comic book medium is primarily for mainstream American children who are peppered by snack-size visual and audio bombardment. If you desire that your children slow down and feast on the written word, then you may cringe at the idea of a graphic novel version of Moby Dick. But before you issue a home-wide ban on these books, consider the following.

If you have a reluctant or beginning reader, your first concern should be for fluidity and competency. You will find that the graphic novel's illustrations draw your child in even as the vocabulary becomes more complex. Then, because the graphics are so attention-grabbing, children often find themselves reading for pleasure.

If your reluctant reader is an older child, your main concern may be making sure that he is culturally savvy. With graphic novels, vocabulary is introduced via contextual clues, making great literature accessible to more children. The interesting pictures and snappy dialogue, with little-to-no narration to bog the reader down, will encourage independent reading and learning. As the child's competence and confidence grow, so will his joy of literacy.

Even if your older child is a competent reader, he will enjoy taking a break from the verbally intense books characteristic of higher-level learning to enjoy a more visual form of storytelling. A 2006 study found that the amount of reading children did for fun decreased from the time they were eight through the teen years. Graphic books can re-engage them in the delights of reading for leisure as well as for learning.

There are children who may never read for pleasure; God just might have wired them differently. But most children, from the reluctant, faltering reader to the brilliant but easily bored adolescent, will find graphic novels intriguing.
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