Bill Zimmerman has created something wonderful --- Makebeliefscomix.com, a website with a clear message: nurture children's creativity through family fun.
Zimmerman's mission is to ensure that anyone coming across this site has something fun to do, and here, the fun to be had is in comics! Zimmerman, accompanied by cartoonist Tom Bloom, has created a series of written prompts where children and children-at-heart can create their very own comics and comics stories utilizing illustrations and characters by Bloom. His latest work? A free interactive digital comic book for students enrolled in literacy and English Language Learner programs.
The book, MAKEBELIEVECOMIX FILL-INS, is a do-it-yourself comic book where students supply the words to complete the book. The comic e-book provides a place where students can give MakeBeliefsComix characters their own words and thoughts. All students need to do is follow the writing prompts and fill in the blank talk and thought balloons to determine what characters say and think.
Although the book's audience is quite specific, Zimmerman writes that the site as a whole really is for everyone --- "those wanting a few minutes of fun; youngsters and their parents; students and teachers; business executives trying to unwind from the stress of work, and activities directors and social workers who try to help people express their deepest thoughts and feelings." On his page, his message and goal is a lofty one, but he charges ahead, assuring us that he means to inspire visitors to challenge themselves to their own lofty goals through safe and clear self-expression. Education and therapy through kid-safe comic creating doesn't sound like a bad idea at all!
As a gradute of the Savannah College of Art & Design, and a current art instructor, I have full confidence in a project and site like this. My own early interest in comics and writing began with a piece of Batman-themed comic creation software from 1995. This resulted in a lasting, presently lifelong love of the medium. I intend to introduce my own students to the website, to help them get a better grip on narrative development.
Fun and creative is the best way to describe the site itself, as well. Bright colors and a positive message on every page makes for a cohesive and safe experience for users of all ages. The site is a huge proponent --- and crowning example --- of the school of thought that argues for comics as a tool to achieve a richer educational experience. Over 225,000 educators and students from 180 countries visit the site monthly to practice their writing or teach their classes, and for good reason.
Makebeliefscomix.com is a pioneer of comics as an educational tool, and has been recognized by Google and UNESCO as one of the most innovative websites to foster literacy and writing in numerous languages.