Award-winning creators and free speech advocates Jennifer and Matthew Holm are very familiar with the positive and lasting impact that graphic novels can have on young children learning to read. In a recent interview with the School Library Journal the sibling team talk about not only what inspired them to create books like Babymouse and Squish, but also the importance of incorporating comics and graphic novels into the classroom today.
CBLDF Board Member and New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Holm has become well-known for her numerous award-winning children’s books. Moreover, the graphic novels that she creates with her brother Matthew have also become instrumental in inspiring elementary and middle school students to develop their reading skills. “Graphic novels are confidence boosters!” the duo tells SLJ.
Lifelong comics fans themselves, Jennifer and Matthew fondly remember pouring over the pages of Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes as children and the joy those books brought them. “Comics do a great job of teaching the building blocks of reading in a visual way,” they note, adding:
At a very basic level, learning how to read pictures is the first step to reading words. Children can learn inference by studying the pictures. They learn about dialogue because they can “see” it in a speech bubble. They learn to navigate left to right on the page. They start to understand human emotions visually.
More than just human emotions, though, graphic novels like the ones that Jennifer and Matthew create teach children about being themselves, overcoming stereotypes, and navigating their young adolescent lives. Babymouse and Squish teach children about embracing who they are while offering young readers insight into life’s many responsibilities and handling different social situations.
At the end of the day, though, graphic novels are just fun. “If we’re not laughing, no one is,” says the siblings, and that is one reason why graphic novels are a great medium for inspiring young and even reluctant readers to delve into the world of fiction. “Children will read a graphic novel and feel like they’ve climbed Mount Everest. This will boost their confidence to keep reading… and turn them into lifelong readers.”
To read the full interview with Jennifer and Matthew, click here! And don’t forget to check out CBLDF’s resources and guides for incorporating graphic novels into your school classroom and library, including dedicated guides to both Babymouse and Squish.
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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!