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Graphic Medicine for Kids and Teens

Posted by on December 16th, 2019 Posted in: Graphic Medicine
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Collage of book covers for Sunny Side Up, Hyperbole and a Half, Ghosts, The Truth About Stacey and Hey Kiddo.

Graphic Medicine is comic books and graphic novels that cover topics of health and wellness.  The visual format makes the information easier to understand and digest.  By reading a personal, non-fiction story, we can learn about issues we may not have experienced ourselves.  These stories can also help us feel less alone in our own lives.

People who aren’t familiar with graphic medicine often assume that it’s mainly a tool for health communication with kids and teens.  When mainstream audiences think about comics and graphic novels, they picture the comics they read as kids (superheroes, romance, teen drama), and may not be aware of the large variety of fiction and non-fiction works written for adults. In fact, a lot of graphic medicine works are primarily focused on communicating with adults with language and illustrations not designed for young audiences.  This isn’t as simple as “adult content”, but also references that may go over younger readers heads or don’t resonate with them.

Here are a few examples of graphic medicine works that were written specifically with kids and young adults in mind.

For Kids:

  • Many of the books by Raina Telgemeier have health and wellness themes including Smile, Sisters, and Guts, autobiographical works dealing with dental issues, sibling rivalry, and “tummy troubles” caused by anxiety. Ghosts and The Truth About Stacey, fiction by Telgemeier, deal with cystic fibrosis, sibling relationships and diabetes.
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell uses animal characters to illustrate the author’s childhood experiences being deaf and having to use the Phonic Ear (a bulky hearing aid).
  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm and its sequels follow Sunny as she deals with changing family relationships, sibling substance use and growing up.

For Teens:

These are just a few examples of graphic novels with health themes written for young people, but many graphic novels for kids and young adults deal with growing up, interpersonal relationships and other mental and physical health issues.  Your local library probably has titles already in their children and teen collection that they may not have thought of as graphic medicine or for communicating health issues with kids.

Learn more about Graphic Medicine, including lesson plans for grades 7-10, by visiting the NLM’s website for the traveling exhibit Graphic Medicine: Ill-Conceived, Well-Drawn.  Or request a Graphic Medicine Book Club Kit for your library, school or community group to try.

Image of the author ABOUT Sarah Levin-Lederer


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This has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012347 with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

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