interview with Illya Kowalchuk

This weekend’s Denver ComicCon is just a sneaky way to get students to read more, and it’s working.  It turns out the explosive (BOOM) success of Denver’s comic book convention always had education in mind, according Illya Kowalchuk, director of education for Comic Book Classroom, the year-round part of the project to bring creativity and literacy to local students.

“What we always knew from  growing up with pop culture, video games, comics, … it has this inherent value,” explained Kowalchuk.  ”We wanted to use that value as a way to enrich the lives of Denver youth and beyond. ”  

According to the website, the official name of the convention event is “Denver Comic Con and Literary Conference.”   Surrounded by all that merchandise, costumed fans and fantasy hunting, Kowalchuk says they’ll present 300 hours of educational programming.  And 200 passes have been distributed to educators, with academic sessions on “Graphic Novels for the Classroom,” “Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Video Games,” “Comics in the Special Education Classroom,” and more.

Comic Book Classroom is also partnering with PlatteForum to engage urban students, and they’re working with Denver’s Youth One Book, One Denver campaign to create an entire comic book around the designated 2014 book (to be announced on June 17).

“The convention is this amazing 75,000-person event, and the very next week we’re going to be able to work with 2,500 kids over the summer to develop their literacy and art skills.  We use this platform of the convention to build relationships and get kids jazzed about that ignition in their souls … creating a love of learning,” said Kowalchuk.

Music on this feature includes the Otone Brass Band, “Overworld 1-1” (theme from Mario Bros.), from the CD Hey, Hey, Hey and Billy Tolles and the BT Express, “The Sermon,” from the CD Five Points Groove.

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