Let’s Talk About Comics

comicsinbedThey’re not just for reading in bed, though, as Charlie Brown often says “happiness is a stack of comics”. If you’re the parent of a reluctant writer, a visual-spatial learner (VSL) or an artsy child, then they might just be the key to unlocking greater learning.

Yesterday, I wrote about all the reasons why you should incorporate drawing into your curriculum. Now, I’m telling you that on top of those benefits, you can teach sequencing, story structure, dialogue and even grammar with very little effort on your part.

How you ask? Well…

makingcunderstandingcIf your child is a teen, you can start by picking up a copy of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and its companion, Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets.  The first book explores the art and history of the medium (in other words, how comics work and why we all love them), while the second gets into the meat of making your own. Both are written in a friendly comic style (ironic, no?), and when combined with the printable layouts from Donna Young, will yield fantastic results.

rochelightfootFor the younger crowd, you’ll want to grab a copy of Art for Kids by Art Roche (got to love the guy’s name) and Cartooning for Kids by Marge Lightfoot. Roche’s book is a gentler approach, covering many of the same topics as Making Comics, but less in-depth and more child-friendly.  Work through it first, and then explore the Lightfoot book to pick up additional skills.

Whichever set of instructional texts you choose, you will want to READ as many comics/graphic novels as possible. Locating those that are, shall we say, appropriately tasteful can be a challenge. My top picks are laid out for you in my Amazon list.

If you find that the kids are struggling for ideas, Neil Yamamoto and Ralph Masiello both have books with interesting characters that you can draw. You may also want to refer back to some of the books that I mentioned yesterday.  I especially like the Ed Emberley ones.  You can make up all kinds of stories with his characters, and they are fairly easy to execute on paper.

perspectivegraphicwriteFor teens who would like to go a bit furtherand produce their own graphic novel (long comic), I suggest Rosinsky’s Write Your Own Graphic Novel along with the Perspective for Comic Book Artists text.

You can practice making shorts at Comic Master or layout longer, more original versions, in Word with the help of these tutorials (bottom of the screen). And while you’re online, you might also want to enjoy the Wormworld Saga, which is an online graphic novel that is mildly addicting. Here’s a cool screenshot:


And one more word on the VSL.  If your child is gifted with this learning style, ask them to turn Bible passages, historical events, or even mathematical concepts into short cartoons for better retention. Beyond flash cards or rote learning, the process of creating their own visual stories will etch the information into their brains for the long-term.

In the future, I will feature a two-part article on curriculum and techniques just for the VSL’s in your life. So stay tuned!


NEXT UP-——————–> Non-traditional Math





Why You Should be Teaching Drawing and How to Do It Well

  childBecause the 3 R’s take priority and then you have to somehow squeeze in history, geography and science–not to mention Bible study–art often falls by the wayside.  Public schools have even dropped it from their curriculum. You as a home educator should not make that mistake.

Drawing should be a priority, and here’s only a few reasons why: 1) it is the gateway to creativity, tapping the right side and building bridges to the left side of the brain, 2) it increases observational skills, motor coordination and problem-solving abilities, 3) it boosts mood/self-image, and 4) it not only improves handwriting, but boosts a child’s performance across all subjects.

horsedrawnThat’s not something that said of many endeavors. You can see why it was a compulsory course in 19th century schools.

Well into the 20th, drawing masters such as  E.G. Lutz instructed pupils in the fine art. He was an inspiration for Walt Disney.  WALT DISNEY!

[Two of his charming texts are up at the Public Domain Review. Go look!]

Now, as to where to begin your own instruction, I have laid out an


Step One: Donna Young’s FREE Drawing 1A printable lesson set. Note the two levels, and choose the one suitable for your child’s age group.

Step Two: Doodle books. My favorites are:  The Boys Doodle Book (there is also a Girl’s version), Oodles of Doodles, Doodle Zoo and Doodles,  These will require both line completion and creative work. You might also like to introduce one of the Anti-Coloring Books which should be an ongoing project throughout the next levels.

boydoodle   oodlesdoodlezoodoodlesanticolor

Step Three: Work through the following Barbara Soloff Levy books— Funny Monsters, People, Cars and Trucks, Animals, and Funny Faces . Your library might carry some of these books or others of hers, but they are such  inexpensive texts that they would good birthday/holiday gifts.

people carsandtrucksanimals funnymonsters  funnyfaces

Step Four: Find as many of Dan Green’s How to Draw 101 series as you can stand (or rather the children can stand). These are hugely popular, especially with boys (but they do have a great fairy book for girls) and are also super-affordable and LOADS of fun.

101monsters 101animalsedpurple edgreen

Once you get a grip on those, try Ed Emberley’s Purple and Green books. He has others in the color series, but these are the best.  Most libraries will have these in hardcover, as they have been around forever, but you will probably want your own copy.  They are that good and will come in handy when you need ideas for comic strips. [We’ll talk about that in a later post.]

Also at most libraries, you can find the 123 Draw books and sometimes the Draw Write Now series. These aren’t essential sets, but some kids can’t get enough of them, and the Draw Write Now books can be tied to your history studies. BONUS.  But…you knew that but was coming…you will probably find that the children prefer the likes of  Learn to Draw Disney or Best of Nick. You might even have a Manga/Chibis fan. Whatever strikes their fancy will work.

Step 5: Where some children will lose interest, but those who push on will benefit greatly from Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad and Imagination Station. Older children should start with these after working through the Donna Young printables.  Now is also good time to complete her Shading Scale exercise.

drawsquad imagination

Step 6: Only motivated students should continue on to the Walter Foster books How to Draw, How to Draw 2, and Drawing Animals, or alternatively Jon Gnagy. If you haven’t done the Donna Young Shading exercise, do it now.

walterf walterf2 walterf3gnagy

Then if you’re really ambitious, tackle Perspective Without Pain and Secrets to Drawing Realistic Faces. 

perspect realisticdrawPast that, you’re an art major and on your way to a professional career. Congrats!


STAY TUNED for————–>A Comics Unit Study

followed by Non-Traditional Math