The surge of graphic novels written for kids has been well-documented. The bay at Barnes & Noble is packed tight, and bleeding into the fiction section adjacent to it. There are listicles upon listicles from book blogs and websites recommending the newest titles for picky young readers. At the Davenport Library, nine of the top-10 most circulated books for July are graphic novels.
Even the ever-dominant Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling has been edged out: Only one installment, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” eked its way onto the top-10 list. And that’s not even one of the original books — it’s a play script.
Emily Simpao, the youth services supervisor, said that’s been the case for the last several years, both at the Davenport Public Library and in her previous job at Smart Intermediate School.
There are a few reasons those books circulate at such high rates, she said.
“The text is less intimidating,” she said. With illustrations dominating most pages, graphic novels appeal to pickier or more hesitant readers.
“Kids also really like to find an author or a series that they love and stick with it,” Simpao said. “That’s why you see four “Dog Man books and four Raina Telgemeier books.”
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There are only four authors on the top-10 list, and every book is part of a series, save the Telgemeier titles. Even she, though, has a cult following — kids who read one tend to go on to read all of her books.
This sort of circulation data, though, is also imperfect Simpao said — the library has more copies of books that they expect to be more popular, but since there are more copies those books can also be checked out more often, feeding into the data that suggests they need more copies in the first place.
“It’s not perfect data,” she said.
While kids might be drawn to graphic novels because they seem “easier” to read, parents shouldn’t worry too much about whether they’re “really reading.” When there are more and more alternatives to occupy free time besides books, just picking up any book is reinforcing a good habit.
That’s not to say it’s not different — Simpao added that reading a graphic novel is a different experience, and requires different comprehension skills. That’s not a bad thing, though.
“Reading is reading,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what it is.”