When Denver Comic Con and Literacy Conference (DCC) arrives in town this weekend (June 13–15), it’ll do a lot more than just connect fans with Stormtroopers, Trekkies, and the Green Arrow (yes, Stephen Amell will be here on Saturday). The event will also raise awareness of Comic Book Classroom (CBC), a nonprofit program that promotes literacy through pop culture (and is the organizing group behind DCC).

CBC’s Storytelling Through Comics is a standards-based curriculum focused on literacy and arts skills created specifically for 11-to-14 year olds in the Denver area. Teachers can implement the fully downloadable program into existing language arts lesson plans, teach it as a standalone unit, or use the lessons for after-school programming. Online resources such as how-to art videos are available to teachers to get them comfortable with the lessons before passing them on to the students. The goal: Using age-appropriate comics—a medium many kids already enjoy—to improve students’ literacy and get them excited about reading and learning. Sample lessons include differentiating between comics and other forms of literature, the four components of comic storytelling (characterization, story, artwork, and publishing), and the basics of drawing comic art. Students at West Generation Academy, for instance, studied a graphic novel created specifically for CBC, then compared and contrasted the themes and storyline with Romeo & Juliet and The Outsiders; then they created a 64-page comic that debuted at last year’s DCC.

“Pop culture is another way to get kids hooked back in,” says CBC director of education and convention director Illya Kowalchuk. “It opens up potential career paths—author, toy maker, illustrator.” A math teacher for 10 years, Kowalchuk personally enjoyed comic book culture and found that it was a valuable tool for connecting with his students. He started a superhero code of conduct in his classroom, which he credited with “creating an emotional shift” that led to more focused students.

If you and your kids visit DCC this weekend, stop by the Comic Book Classroom Corral for youth-focused programming and the opportunity to work on creative projects with industry professionals.

Get Involved: Like what CBC is doing? Donate money or art materials, volunteer to help out (whether it’s doing administrative work or you’re a comic artist interested in helping create curriculum content), or tell your child’s teacher about the program.

Coming Up: CBC is providing supporting curriculum for Denver Arts & Venues’ Youth One Book, One Denver program this summer. The chosen book will be announced on June 17.

Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at daliahsinger.com.