Published on Common Sense Media
COMMON SENSE RATING
WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW
Parents need to know that Make Beliefs Comix is a website and app where kids can create their own positive comics using a charming cast of predrawn characters. Kids don't have to register to use the site, and, because it doesn't let users post comics, it provides a safe experience (kids get a reminder to either print or email their creations to themselves or a friend). Generally, content is controversy-free. The Printables section features a few religious references; an activity encourages kids to create a prayer for someone they love, a parental-advice section briefly mentions God's plan, and another item refers to past lives. However, the nondenominational references don't encourage kids to believe or support any particular religion, and the comic creator itself doesn't include any religious overtones.
Kids can learn about storytelling and self-expression. Frequent prompts include information about plot, pacing, and creating a compelling story. Kids get to be creative by writing dialogue and other elements; they also can learn to kick-start the creative process with writing prompts. The site can be used to help kids learn several languages, including English, Spanish, French, and Italian. Make Beliefs Comix provides an easy-to-use tool and an impressive amount of story-structuring tips; both the tool and the site's writing assistance should be able to help even the most creativity-averse kids produce and learn from comics.
Many activities focus on positive themes. A section for parents includes tips on communicating with kids and fostering their growth. Idea-boosting exercises and the comic-creation tool encourage creativity, self-analysis, and respect for others, and the Printables section touches on topics like civil rights and standing up to bullies.
Violence & Scariness
An add-your-own-ending section has a "Weapons & Guns" listing, but its comics encourage kids to consider a gun-free world.
Users can buy site creator Bill Zimmerman's books on the site; most pages, including the home page, contain banner ads from various companies. Site donations also are encouraged.
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
MAKE BELIEFS COMIX, created by author Bill Zimmerman, who has written more than a dozen books on drawing and other topics, offers a fun comics-construction tool for kids; parenting tips; and educator resources for language instruction and special-needs and ESL students. Kids get a detailed explanation about how to use the tool, along with frequent hints and writing prompts; they can choose from predrawn characters, customize their positioning and size, and add objects, background colors, and dialogue. Each character has a few "emotions" to choose from; facial expressions and body language help create a story. Finished comics can be printed or emailed.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
Make Beliefs Comix can help kids build creative and narrative comic strips. They choose characters, objects, background colors, and other elements; the main site design is a little simplistic, but the well-explained tool is so user-friendly that even art-averse kids can use it to practice storytelling, writing, and imagination skills. Make Beliefs Comix provides a number of other valuable resources for parents and kids that stress having a positive attitude. Activities encourage kids to respect others and be confident. The Printables section features several thought-provoking exercises that can help kids identify feelings and make good decisions. Other writing activities encourage them to appreciate the world around them and learn from mistakes; site content also can introduce kids to subjects like 9/11's effect and women's rights. The comic characters are diverse, featuring people of color, animals, and a kid in a wheelchair. Though it's not as versatile as other comics creators like Pixton, Make Beliefs Comix brings something else to the table: a valuable focus on positivity, awareness, and self-acceptance.
FAMILIES CAN TALK ABOUT...
- Families can talk about the challenges involved in telling a story using more pictures than words. What things are easier to say with images? Are there any examples your child can think of that might be easier to say with words?
- Discuss the chronological order of a recent family outing or event. Can your child similarly identify the beginning, middle, and end of a favorite movie or comic on the site?
- Storytelling features a number of elements, such as characterization and tone. Can your child identify some ways you could show a character is sad? How could you illustrate a character being nervous?
Social Studies: citizenship, history
Arts: drawing, script writing
Language & Reading: presenting to others, storytelling
Communication: conveying messages effectively, multiple forms of expression
Emotional Development: empathy, self-awareness
Creativity: imagination, making new creations
This review of Make Beliefs Comix was written by Erin Brereton.