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Are Graphic Novels Okay?

Max Kolomatsky, 10, loves to read, but his books of choice have his mom, Tina, of Montclair, NJ, a tad worried. "He adores the Bone series," she says, referring to the graphic novels by Jeff Smith, but when it comes to "real" books, his enthusiasm wanes. "Recently, he had to read a biographical fiction about Lincoln for school, and it was like torture for him."

Should Max's mom be concerned? Not at all. Reading is reading, no matter how the words are presented on the page. In fact, visual learners -- kids who doodle a lot, express and understand things best through drawing or painting, and enjoy puzzles and mazes -- are often better able to hone their reading skills with comic books or graphic novels, says Michele Gorman, author of Getting Graphic! Using Graphic Novels to Promote Literacy With Preteens and Teens. Struggling readers may also benefit from these types of tomes: The pictures provide context clues that can boost comprehension.

To make sure your comic-book or graphic-novel fan's faves are age-okay:

  • Check out the library. Most file graphic novels by age, so you can get an idea of which titles and series are appropriate.
  • Look for publishers' kid imprints, like DC Kids and Marvel Adventures.
  • If your tween reads Japanese comics (manga), scan the covers. They often feature icons from the publisher's rating system, like Viz Media's