Digital graphic novels offer a unique way to pique students’ interest in reading

Educators are using digital graphic novels to enhance students’ learning experience and get kids picking up books

For nearly 100 years, comics as we know them have been riveting readers around the world. From the newspaper funny strips, to serialised superhero sagas, to manga and everything in between, the popularity of comics is indisputable, extending across all genders, languages and age groups.

Younger readers in particular have historically gravitated toward this medium, attracted to the colorful, welcoming pages and accessible storylines. So, it’s no surprise that in recent years, graphic novels – essentially long-form comics – have become increasingly popular with student readers of all grade levels and abilities. And with the advent of digitisation, accessing these titles is often as simple as the swipe of a finger.

The wide-reaching benefits of digital graphic novels for student readers

While graphic novels have always been an attractive option for leisure reading, educators are now beginning to understand how valuable they can be to their lesson plans as well. Lauded contemporary graphic novels like Jerry Craft’s Newbery Medal-winning New Kid and Victoria Jamieson’s Newbery Honor Book Roller Girl have helped redefine the genre and cement its legitimacy. And as one librarian notes, embracing this format is crucial in appealing to reluctant readers and English-language learners.

Plus, when educators are able to offer already unique formats like graphic novels digitally, it can help unlock new dimensions to their students’ reading. Digital books are typically available on-demand, as long as the student has access to a device, and offer tools like instant definitions, in-app notes, and highlights to help facilitate deep, critical reading.

Graphic novels can also help students decode classic texts

Another underrated benefit to digital graphic novels is that for students who might look at their required reading lists with dread, loaded with essentials like Shakespeare or Homer, the format is a great way to introduce key texts. In their original form, such books might present as dense and inscrutable, requiring constant referral to footnotes and appendices.

However, a graphic novelisation of a literary classic can provide critical visual context to helps students follow the story more easily without significantly revising the text. For the reader who might hesitate in the face of a line such as “I fear too early, for my mind misgives; / Some consequence yet hanging in the stars, / Shall bitterly begin his fearful date,” (Romeo and Juliet 1.4.113-115), a graphic novel can help them connect the statement with the character, gain a sense of setting, and follow the action of the story.

In turn, it becomes easier for the reader to interpret the essential meaning behind the 16th century vernacular and discern that what the character, Romeo, is truly saying is that he fears he’s making an ill-advised decision in attending a party at the Capulet home, one that will eventually lead to fatal consequences.

This is just one example. Numerous classic works are available in graphic novel form – and most are available digitally, so they can function as a helpful supplement to classroom texts without taking up any additional shelf space.

Give your students digital graphic novels and more with Ebooks NOW

Digital graphic novels aren’t the only way to spark students’ interest in reading. When learners have access to more overall reading choice, their reading engagement is higher. That’s why it’s important for schools to support their reading and literacy goals with a robust library of ebooks and audiobooks alongside their print collection.

And with Ebooks NOW from OverDrive Education, it’s never been easier – or more cost-effective – to give your school community access to digital books. For one affordable fee, schools with Ebooks NOW can access a high-quality, curated collection of digital books, including graphic novels. An Ebooks NOW subscription also gives schools access to:

  • The Sora reading app, which provides a seamless 24/7 reading experience across all major devices, plus personalised reading features and a simple one-tap borrowing process.
  • Individual collections for primary schools and secondary schools.
  • Reports to help track usage and maximise your return on investment.
  • Safe, secure authentication.
  • On-demand training and technical support.
  • The Advantage program, which empowers Ebooks NOW partners to curate additional content to meet your school’s unique reading needs.


Download the case study to help you how Ebooks NOW revolutionised reading access for Ark Elvin Academy.

You might also like: Creating an engaged digital learning space: Not just a pandemic necessity

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