Comic Book Classroom

Colorado / May 31, 2012 / by The Team

The magic of comic books is one enjoyed the world over by children and adults alike, but it is often considered somewhat less than literary. Comic Book Classroom is an organization in Denver set on changing that stereotype, however. 

With a program that encourages literacy and creativity for children in schools, they use comic books to fuel a new generation’s passion for reading.

Executive Director, Illya Kowalchuk explains that as a middle school teacher, “children who were checked out...” in his classes on ‘classic’ literature would come alive whenever he discussed comic books. Comic Book Classroom brings that excitement of comic books to regular classrooms for just those children. 

It offers both a classroom and an after-school program, both with the same aim: to promote a different way for children to explore reading and writing. Kowalchuck says that “the kids who can be hardest to reach through traditional literature, that comics provide a wonderful avenue” for encouraging their reading habits. 

Students are first taught the basics of comic book vocabulary. Elements such as thought bubbles, frames and bleed are explained in reference to real comics. Then, the children are told to let their imaginations run wild as they learn about and put together their characters, plot lines and story boards. 

They put a great deal of thought into their characters and stories. One student, Parker Sanchez, explains that he thinks “about how it might affect other people so I try and make it funny so if they’re sad, they can get a laugh.”

Just like acting out a play can help illuminate the playwright’s words, a comic book lends a hand to a child’s imagination as they read their way through the plot. “For all different kinds of learners, there’s a tremendous benefit to having the picture and the text tell the story simultaneously,” explains Kowalchuk.

If comic books encourage children to read, and can do so more easily than books for some children, then their place in schools is one of great value. “They offer a more realistic representation of an idea; you can draw a picture of something and express it in different ways than you can write about it.”

Even more than giving life to a love of reading, Comic Book Classroom creates an environment in which children’s wishes and ideas are put very much at the forefront of the session. It fosters a creativity, both in terms of drawing the comic and imagining the plot lines, that is extremely important for an enjoyment of reading and learning. 

Comic Book Classroom gives its students the chance to address any problem that concerns them. This allows the children to think in great detail about very difficult topics that, though children, they are very much aware of.

They are asked to think of a list of any themes that interest them or problems that they or their friends and family is addressing. Then they create a story line to address that problem as well as a superhero who will help solve those problems. “It could address bullying directly, it could address divorce, it could address drug abuse, domestic violence, anything that they choose,” explains Kowalchuk.

The Principal of one of the schools participating in Comic Book Classroom says that “it’s a wonderful way for kids to access some of these literacy skills that normally they wouldn’t want to work on at all.”

Comic Book Classroom is funded by donations but they in order to raise money for their work, they have organized the first Denver ComicCon. Not only will ticket sale provide the financial support for Comic Book Classroom, it will also be an excellent platform for showcasing the importance of their work with children, as well as giving the children the chance to meet actors and comic book artists. 

The owner of the Time Warp comic book shop, Wayne Winsett, is helping with the Comic Con organization and loves Comic Book Classroom’s mission. He explains that “comic books and literacy is something that I’ve wanted to see for many, many years because kids nowadays aren’t reading as much as they need to.”

Comic Book Classroom’s goal is to have this program available to as many children as possible whether in or out of school. They want to show that the comic books are misconstrued as frivolous and highlight the “rich, multi-leveled, layered conversations that were surrounding this throwaway culture that in society is seen as junk.”

To learn more about Comic Book Classroom, visit their website, or Facebook page and find out more about the Denver Comic Con on the website.