The beauty of creative learning is that it can take so many different forms, depending on the learner. Last week, we had the pleasure of having Rossie Stone, creator and founder of Dekko Comics, give a talk at our school assembly. As a young person who struggled academically, drawing cartoons and comic strips turned out to be the key Rossie needed to unlock his potential at school. Along with the Dekko Comics team, Rossie now creates engaging, fun and colourful comic books for children to help them with their learning. He also gives talks and runs workshops for schools to help young learners harness their individual creativity to find a way of learning that works for them.
For this week's blog, we decided to do a Q&A with Rossie to find out more about how Dekko Comics supports all kinds of learners with their education using creative learning and entertainment. Check it out below!
Tell us a bit about the Dekko Comics journey. What first inspired you to create Dekko Comics?
Dekko Comics comes from a technique that I used for my exam revision when I was at school. I was always good at art and creativity, but I struggled at school academically throughout the years. I was diagnosed with dyslexia during my first year at Secondary School. Even though I got extra time in my exams and was given extra support (which I did appreciate), I still found it very hard to absorb information in class through reading and listening. No matter how hard I tried, or how many extra hours I poured into my own revision, nothing ever seemed to get better.
Eventually, in my last year of exams, I just decided that I was going to enjoy my exam revision at the very least. So I turned my revision notes into something that wasn’t so hard for me to read and memorise: wacky comic strip stories. These were fun to make, fun to read, and super easy to remember. Comics weren’t considered proper reading at the time but it didn’t matter to me, because at least for the first time it felt like I could remember the information naturally — because I had a visual and a point of narrative to remember all my facts by.
Long-story-short: the comics I made were so effective at helping me read, understand and remember my information, that I got my first Grade A in the exam I used them to revise for.
Dekko Comics now turns the KS2 curriculum (or general curriculum for ages 9-12) into visual, storytelling entertainment with lots of humour and wackiness. Its key strength is its use of entertainment; to create engagement, thus willingness, thus confidence, and thus the reader throwing themselves into it naturally.
From your experience working with children and schools, what are some of the main challenges you’ve found that young people face when learning?
No.1 thing: CONFIDENCE. Whether it’s dyslexia, ADHD, autism, or just finding the conventional method a bit more difficult or boring than average, the self-esteem issues it can cause the pupil has, in my experience, been the number 1 challenge kids face. They feel stupid or like they’re a hopeless case, which lowers their self esteem to believe they can do things. This was my experience at school too.
This is combined with the fact that schools only teach in one particular way for the most part, as in: a form of communicating information that heavily relies on the ability to use WORDS, (reading, writing, listening, etc). If you have dyslexia, you are at an inherent disadvantage because that is a key area where you are likely to struggle. You may as well be someone who hates drawing and can’t even draw stick figures having your intelligence and effort marked on how well you can draw, or playing for the school sports team when you hate sports and have terrible hand-eye coordination.
So the main challenges would be teaching in a word-ability way and the confidence issues that come with that. This is why I focus on making Dekko Comics entertainment. Fun and entertainment create a natural motivation, rather than leaving the reader worrying they can’t access it due to their ability and track record.
How do Dekko comics cater to different kinds of learners and/or children with additional learning needs?
They are visual, so do not rely primarily on words to communicate. On top of that they use narrative and colours as part of the teaching tool. This, combined with a dyslexia-friendly font and the entertainment focus, makes them accessible to a much wider audience than just those who are good at reading. Having said that, kids who DON’T struggle with school also love them. And that’s what we want them to do: to battle the stigma of learning disabilities, rather than just a “special” tool for “special” pupils.
Furthermore, the comics (by nature) cut up the information into panels and speech bubbles, making everything concise and easier to follow. In short, Dekko Comics teach with words but with MORE than just words.
This means that yes, they are (and have proven to be) very helpful for dyslexic readers, but other types of learners who are more sensitive to visuals and other means of communication also receive great benefit from them. This include readers with forms of autism, ADHD, dyspraxia and even deaf readers too.
What kinds of things do you cover in your workshops?
I tell my story, and relate it to the school journey that every pupil in the room must go through — especially the ones who struggle for one reason or another.
I then show them easy and fun examples of how they can turn their own school work or homework into entertainment (like turning a times table into a poster, or Nouns & Verbs into a comic story, or counting into a football activity, etc). I show how this can be done through entertainment; not just drawing abilities. This way, no pupil feels left out and everyone has access to it.
Lastly, everyone else gets to have a go! I go around encouraging them and their work, as well as offering ideas, and then we all get to have a look at whoever wants to show their work afterwards.
You’ve created so many amazing characters! Who is your all-time favourite Dekko character and why?
That’s very kinds of you to say! My favourite would either be Miriam the Friendly Nightmare (because her world is just crazy), or Tracey Time (because she and her stories are the most fun to write).
What is the one piece of advice you would give to a student who has lost confidence in their learning?
That it’s okay to find things difficult. It’s perfectly normal and there’s nothing wrong with you. Because we’re all different, we’re going to be natural at some things while we find other things a bit harder. Do we judge a basketball player if they’re not good at football? We can all get better at things we find difficult, but it’s okay to explore and find your own way that works for you.
My advice: look at what makes you happy and entertains you, and let that be your solution rather than your distraction. For example, if you struggle with reading but love computer games, can you practice reading on some more storytelling based computer games? You won’t know the answer until you explore it and try things out — but one thing you can be sure of is that it’s got nothing to do with stupidity.
If you like drawing, use drawing. If you like music, use music. If you like dancing, use dancing. Let creativity be your friend.
Finally, where can we read Dekko comics?!
You can order your own full set of Dekko Comics at dekkocomics.com. They cover Maths, English, Science, and many more subjects for ages 9–12 and have been so well-loved that even reluctant readers are taking them on their holidays to read.
Well, there you have it! Thank you so much to Rossie for these fabulous answers, and for inspiring our pupils last week in assembly. Be sure to check out Dekko Comics for a fun educational boost now or even for over the summer break.
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