For some, comic books are a just a bunch of pictures, with superheroes, and therefore, a total waste of time.
For others, like Michael Bitz, it’s a tool for learning and a way for kids to be creative.
Bitz is the founder and director of The Comic Book Project, which encourages kids to write their own comic books.
Bitz founded the non-profit group in 2001 but began to see the value of comics when he was a fourth-grade teacher at P.S. 279 in the Bronx in 1999. He wasn’t a fan of comic books himself then, but he noticed kids in his class doodling characters like Pokemon. He eventually told his class to go ahead and create their own characters. He realized that by creating their own characters, writing their own stories and developing original plotlines, the students were learning about how to write and how to think creatively.
“It’s totally up to you. Use your imagination” he said at a free workshop held Wednesday afternoon at Schoharie Crossing. He walked through the room, encouraging the children who were in attendance as they drew.
The Comic Book Project has been all across the country, even Hawaii. The project has also been written about in articles by The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Usually, Bitz leads a half-day workshop showing teachers how to also engage their students using comic books.
At the workshop on Wednesday, though, it was a group of kids who were learning how to evolve from drawing simple lines to creating their own comic storylines.
“It’s engaging and it’s fun,” explained David Brooks, who is education coordinator at Schoharie Crossing. “It’s something educational but you can enjoy doing it.”
His own son, Liam, 7, was at the workshop. Liam is a fan of graphic novels but hasn’t really written comic book stories of his own before. Brooks felt a workshop like this would be a way for his son to engage creatively with what he’s doing.
The opportunity for kids in Montgomery County to have a workshop like this was also rare, Brooks said.
Michael Carpenter, 9, and his sister, Megan, 7, arrived with their grandmother, Dorothy Bonanno. Bonanno described her grandchildren as very active outside and never really sitting down to play video games.
But like Brooks, she also wanted her grandchildren to exercise their minds and to do something different.
When it was time to draw their own comics, Megan and Michael agreed to draw a comic book story about a superhero fighting a monster.