Date: January 5th, 2015
By: Pat Paluzzi
We are thrilled to announce the launch of our first graphic novel, Mighty MT: MT Finds His Voice, written and illustrated by the talented J. Scott Fuqua, and co-published by Healthy Teen Network and mPOWRd Media. Focused on bullying prevention and aimed at middle school youth, this is the first of a series of graphic novels addressing social issues we plan to produce. Print copies of the book are available now at www.mPOWrdMedia.com, with digital copies to be available soon. To support the use of Mighty MT in the classroom with the target population, we developed an accompanying lesson plan, also available now at www.mPOWrdMedia.com.
Graphic novels—distinguished by their heavy use of imagery with text—have enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years and are valuable tools for broaching complicated topics. In this somewhat heavier text version, the title character, MT Pitt, is a creative, talented, and imaginative young man whose daydream life provides escape from the torment he faces at school at the hands of school bully, Aaron “Tick” Tickford. Through his dealings with Tick and the courage he summons within himself, he finds his voice…and himself. The story is informed, in part, by a focus group conducted by Healthy Teen Network and comprised of students from Baltimore City’s Digital Harbor High School.
Bullying is an issue that affects many middle-school aged youth, with far-reaching effects. More than 3.2 million students in the US are victims of bullying each year, and approximately 160,000 students skip school each day because of bullying. Physical bullying increases in elementary school and peaks in middle school. (www.DoSomething.org)
The award-winning graphic novelist Fuqua explains more about graphic novels:
“They explore issues, they do things like that, but they come in all forms. We tend to think of comic books as simply sequential art that comes in frames, but a graphic novel is much more than that, so it can be almost anything. It can be primarily art with some narrative in it, or it can be narrative with some art in it. So, it’s just a very cool medium that allows an enormous amount of flexibility.”
Graphic novels are particularly useful in developing literacy skills among reluctant readers and readers for whom the language of the book is not their first. Moreover, many youth enjoy reading graphic novels. Healthy Teen Network interviewed several local Baltimore youth who shared their appreciation for graphic novels:
- “They express a lot of imagination and stuff that you wouldn’t normally be able to see in your normal life.”
- “It’s not that I don’t like to read, but I don’t read, like a lot. I usually either just hang out with friends or play games. But when I do read graphic novels, it’s hard to stop.”
- “They can really help anyone learn anything. Say someone has ADHD or something, and they get distracted really easily. The pictures really help you focus better because you like the images and you like the colors.”
(Clips of these interviews can be viewed online here.)
Graphic novels are great example of how teachers, health educators, and other youth-supporting professionals can maximize their impact with youth by using content that interests youth, while increasing literacy skills. And of course, because youth are reading graphic novels, they can be powerful tools for engagement, bringing in youth culture to the lesson, and addressing difficult, but relevant topics, such as bullying.
To support dissemination of Mighty MT, Healthy Teen Network successfully ran a crowdfunding campaign last summer, raising $5,000, to fund printing and distribution. Mighty MT is currently being distributed among Baltimore City Public middle schools, along with the accompanying lesson plan.
mPOWrd Media is the newly formed publishing arm of Healthy Teen Network. mPOWrd Media and Healthy Teen Network will continue to partner to develop and publish quality products and services to enhance the health and well-being of teens and young adults. Stay tuned for future publications!
Get your copy of Mighty MT today through mPOWrd Media! And if you want to find out more about how to incorporate graphic novels in your programs and services for youth, start the conversation by submitting a service request to Healthy Teen Network.
About the Author
Patricia Paluzzi, CNM, DrPH, President and CEO of Healthy Teen Network, has been active in the fields of reproductive, and maternal and child health for over 40 years, as a clinician, researcher, administrator, and advocate. Her clinical and content expertise spans the full scope of midwifery care, substance abuse, intimate partner violence, high-risk maternal child health (including pregnant teens), incorporating men into clinical services, and trauma-informed approaches.