As a kid, I remember being told that Garfield didn't qualify as "silent reading time" material when I finished my classwork before everyone else.
Granted, Garfield isn't exactly a founding text of the Western canon, but many educators have since come to understand that reading, in any form is a good thing. Graphic books have their own unique merits and are worth enjoying on their own terms. They also improve vocabulary and language acquisition by providing context through illustrations.
There's no denying that even the kids who are reluctant to pick up a book are drawn to the pacing and the aesthetic of the format. The library in my son's elementary school is bursting with graphic novels, some which never quite make it to being re-shelved between readers. At our local public library, the graphic novel section always looks like it suffered its own isolated earthquake while the neat rows surrounding it seem untouched.
We made a list of graphic books that are awesome on their own merits, but also happen to serve as a gateway to classic works of literature, mythology and history.
Le Petit PrinceJoann SfarA Wrinkle in TimeMadeline L’engle adapted by Hope LarsonThe Graveyard BookNeil Gaiman adapted by P. Craig RussellOz SeriesL. Frank Baum, Eric ShanowerPercy Jackson SeriesRick Riordan, Robert Venditti, Attila Fukati, Jose VillarubbiaThe OdysseyGareth HindsRomeo and JulietGareth HindsThe Babysitters ClubRaina TelgemeierThe Boxcar Childrenby Shannon Eric Denton illustrated by Mike Dubisc
These titles may cultivate or enhance an interest in history
Olympians Seriesby George O'Conner
The myths of Zeus, Athena, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Aphrodite in graphic form.
March Book 1 and 2by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell.
Congressman John Lewis' first hand account of the battle for civil and human rights.
Graphic Library Seriesby various authors and illustrators.
(Just when you think you've read them all, from the story of Levi Strauss to The Winter at Valley Forge, your second grader comes home with an edition about the Donner Party. Uh...)
Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic BiographyMausby Art Speigelman
A heavy but worthy read about Hitler's Europe as told by the son of a survivor.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
A memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.
Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves and Other Villains by Jane Yolen and Heidi StempleAnnie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph LambertVincent
by Barbara Stok
The graphic biography of Vincent van Gogh.
Pabloby Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie
The graphic biography of Pablo Picasso
Ancient Egypt Tales of Gods and Pharaohsby Marcia Williams