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Literature, psychology classes team to write children’s comics

January 3, 2019

KOKOMO, Ind. –  About a dozen area preschoolers will learn literacy skills with comic books written especially for them by Indiana University Kokomo students. 

Students in Kristen Snoddy’s children’s literature class applied the concepts they learned about what makes a good children’s story by authoring their own comic books, to give to children at Bona Vista. Those books include a parents’ guide about reading with children, contributed by Vanessa Costello-Harris’s child development class.

“It’s a perfect collaboration,” said Snoddy, senior lecturer in English. “By writing a book, they were able to see in a more concrete way the concepts that make a good story and apply them in their own work. The child development aspect gave them insight into how adults can share these stories with the children and how to make the stories more engaging.” 

Costello-Harris, assistant professor of psychology, led her students in creating comics illustrating topics in child development to show parents how those concepts will help them engage their children in reading.

Distilling child development concepts to a format easily understandable by someone who hasn’t studied psychology is a valuable learning experience.

“In order to write these comics, they had to do some research, to be able to put it into words appropriate to the audience,” Costello-Harris said. 

The IU Kokomo authors had some background information on the child who would receive the book, including what the child wanted the main character’s name to be and the general topic he or she desired.

The students created their books on the Pixton comic and storyboard creator, and Snoddy used an IU Applied Learning Grant to have them printed and bound for delivery in early 2019.

Samantha Stewart, Frankfort, and Ashlee Eberhardt, from Noblesville, collaborated to write a comic for a girl named Elise, who likes horses. 

“We got so invested into writing the book because we knew it was going to a specific child,” said Eberhardt. “It warms my heart to know we are making an impact on this child by writing a book for her.”

Learning about child development and applying what they’ve learned about children’s literature to their own book created a learning experience they won’t forget, Stewart said.

“It helped us understand what words to use, and in developing our child characters,” she said.

Angela Bailiff, from Greentown, wrote her book about a field trip to a farm for a boy named Josiah — and included a scene with a boy who tries to climb a fence to get close to a donkey, and earns a warning about not approaching strange animals without permission.

“It gives a teaching moment, without being preachy,” she said. “It also gives a lesson about where food comes from, which isn’t something people commonly see in their everyday lives anymore.” 

She hopes to implement this project in her own classroom when she is a high school English teacher.

In Costello-Harris’s class, Kelsie Silver said creating comics allowed her to break complex topics down to make them easier to understand.

“I had to do more in-depth research, to make a visual representation,” she said. “It helped me better understand and remember the materials, when I wrote it in a way someone not familiar to the topic would understand.”

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 01/03/2019