Do you know about Bank Street’s Occasional Papers? You might have seen some posters near the oft-traveled elevators, announcing the addition of a new Occasional Paper. I was intrigued when I first saw one of these postings, but also reluctant to take a look because I had plenty to read already. However, I took some time over the summer to read a few of these papers, and now I find myself returning to them in between readings for classes. They offer different points of view, historical context to educational issues, and even contain some exploration of taboo subjects. Take this paper, by Bank Street graduate Clio Stearns. She connects a few of her teaching experiences to research by Cohler and Galatzer-Levy (2006), who write about eroticism between teacher and student playing a role in effective teaching practice. While it might sound offensive in abstract, the essay is reflective, based in professional research (pdf), and absorbing to read.
“Drawing With Milo,” by Jared Rosello, continues the adventurous nature of Occasional Papers by being written as a graphic novel. Graphic novels are commonly thought of as similar to a comic book but with richer, darker story lines. Some, including renown comic book artist Alan Moore, find that the term “graphic novel” is merely a new name for “comic book,” and that adult “…readers latched on to it; they were simply interested in [finding] a way that could validate their continued love of Green Lantern or Spider-Man without appearing in some way emotionally subnormal.”
Those are strong, and somewhat judgemental words to criticize the genre and its fans by. I hope readers here would consider that Rosello’s work seems to challenge those words in many ways. The subject material is emotionally rich, and Rosello cites references to sources throughout, the way an academic essay might. Rosello also fills his work with the type of reflection we practice here at Bank Street. For example, he writes about his thought process working with Milo and what transpired. He incorporates into the story what he could have done differently, and if his goals changed and why. On another level, it is a graphic novel about making comic books – a clever metacognitive idea which to me suggests Rosello grasps the disagreements by critics about the validity of comic books and graphic novels as legitimate literature.
In my experience working with students who have literacy challenges, graphic novels have served as a gateway to larger concepts like theme and character development. The drawbacks have been that students rely heavily on drawings for comprehension instead of text inferences. If you are enticed to take a look at Rosello’s work, head on over here …if this leads you to browse some non-graphic novel Occasional Papers, here we have an example of how the graphic novel can engage the curious or reluctant reader!