For the fourth consecutive year the Saint Michael’s College Education Department has selected a Common Read book for Education students and the college community. These books provide opportunities for discussion, critical analysis, and connection to educational practice, while engaging in deeper questioning about social justice, inclusion, and cultural responsiveness.
El Deafo by Cece Bell will be this year’s Education Department Reads book. Winner of a Newbery Honor award and Vermont’s Dorothy Canfield Fisher award, El Deafo has received critical acclaim from experts in the field of children’s literature and upper elementary readers alike. This graphic novel memoir explores Cece Bell’s experiences with hearing loss and using a hearing aid as a child. This graphic novel offers Saint Michael’s education students the opportunity to read in a genre gaining importance in schools.
The Education Department will be hosting three community events to engage with themes, genre, and curriculum that are inspired by the book. The first will be “Exploring Deafness in Cece Bell’s El Deafo: A panel discussion,” on Monday, September 26 at 7 p.m in the McCarthy Art Center Recital Hall. The panelists will be Rayona Silverman, recipient of a Cochlear implant, Jonathan Silverman, parent of Rayona, Dr. Margaret Sicotte, Rayona’s audiologist, Bill Hudson, counselor with the State Vocational Rehab, and Blair Rasmus, a Sign Support Coordinator with Nine East Network. Sign language interpreters will be available for this panel.
The second event on Monday, October 24 at 7 p.m. will focus on literacy style with “Let's Get Graphic: An Introduction to Cartooning & Graphic Novels” featuring artists from the Center for Cartoon Studies. Panelists will include James Sturm, Eisner Award winning cartoonist and Center for Cartoon Studies Director, and a teacher who uses graphic novels in their classroom. This panel will be held in the Recital Room of the McCarthy Arts Center at Saint Michael’s College and is supported by funding from the Marc and Dana vanderHeyden Endowment for the Arts.
The final event will be a curriculum workshop inspired by the book, Bringing El Deafo Alive Through the Arts. Students in Jonathan Silverman’s Aesthetic Perspective: Heroes, Art, and Social Justice class will design a series of activities to both enrich our understanding of the book’s content and to model different ways to unpack literature. This workshop will be held, Wednesday, October 26 at 5 p.m. in the Farrell Room on the third floor of St. Edmund’s Hall
All events are open to the public.
“We chose to feature El Deafo this year because it offers so much to readers in terms of learning about deafness and communication, the visual power of graphic novels, and the synergistic interplay between the two,” says committee member Valerie Bang-Jensen. “Every reader will recognize how Bell captures elementary school friendships perfectly in so many ways.”