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Leaping the Communication Gap Between Adults and Kids in a Single Bound: The Comic Book Project at TC

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Leaping the Communication Gap Between Adults and Kids in a Single Bound: The Comic Book Project at TC

Artwork from one student's "comic book canvas."

Leaping the Communication Gap Between Adults and Kids in a Single Bound: The Comic Book Project at TC

Michael Bitz, founder of The Comic Book Project

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It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's not Superman. It's The Comic Book Project at TC.

Using various superheroes created by kids in urban schools, The Comic Book Project gives kids the chance to help other kids with issues that they face. Teachers College is partnering up with Dark Horse Comics and The After-School Corporation, a not-for-profit that sustains after-school programs, to produce published comics written and drawn by kids and real comic book artists. The goal of the Project is to promote literacy, creativity, the arts and awareness about issues that affect the world.

"Kids from urban areas are telling the stories," Michael Bitz, TC alum and The Comic Book Project Founder and Director, "and they are very adult themes like gangs and substance abuse."

This year The Project is working with 3,000 kids in grades 4 through 8 in New York City and Cleveland to develop two separate comic books that will be distributed to more than 30,000 children. In Cleveland, the theme for the books will be "conflict resolution." In New York City, it will be "energy conservation and pollution prevention," which is very appropriate after the black out this summer.

Last year, The Comic Book Project was piloted with over 700 children at 33 after-school programs in New York City. It was administered by three important advocates for after-school education in NYC: The After-School Corporation, The Partnership of After School Education, and The Youth Development Institute at the Fund for the City of New York.

The yearlong process of creating the comic book starts with teacher training, where teachers learn how to use the tools provided by The Project. The first step for the students is writing the manuscript, using a planning tool called "the manuscript starter," provided by The Comic Book Project. Kids come up with a plot, write out their stories, sketch characters and think about how the story is going to look. In this page-by-page and panel-by-panel plan, they are encouraged to brainstorm in this stage.

In the next stage, the children are given blank comic books, called a "comic book canvas," where they draw and write their stories, which are related to a certain theme. They draw in the boxes that they mapped out in the manuscript stage. They add color and text. Some work individually, but many schools do the project in teams. Eventually, when the book is done, it will be sent to a panel of judges.

The judges look at all the comic books and decide which stories will be published in the print edition. One story from each participating school is chosen and drawn by a professional comic book artist. Once they are published, the comic books go to all the children. A panel of each child's work, selected by that child, will be displayed on the Project's Web site: www.edpath.org.

This year, the comic books will use both the children's art and the artist's work side by side, so that readers can see exactly what the child was originally thinking.

"The kids are responding positively because the comic books give them a chance to do an artistic project that helps them express who they are," said Bitz. "Kids in inner city schools don't always get the chance to do these types of projects because often arts education goes by the wayside."

For more information or to apply for the Project, please contact Michael Bitz or visit The Comic Book Project or Dark Horse Comics.previous page