How a comic book character teaches area students important health lessons

Rox the Fox makes his comic book debut this month bringing his health message to elementary children in the Talawanda School District.

Rox has been showing up everywhere in recent years as the healthy lifestyle mascot of the Coalition for a Healthy Community and a series of comic books featuring him with district children will be yet another medium for his message.

He has been seen in the schools, at Uptown events and even ice skating always encouraging children to remember the 5-4-3-2-1 keys to good health.

• Burger chain makes Butler County debut at Bridgewater Falls

• ‘Keep an open mind about what’s possible’: Hamilton native who rose from poor Badin student donates $1M to college

Amy Macechko, the school district’s wellness coordinator who also serves as project coordinator for the coalition, said the comic book series will help broaden the message of helping children to see the wisdom of healthy living.

Rox is already doing that in a host of ways.

“Dr. Paul Branscum approached me (in the fall of 2017) and shared he had done some work in another community with a computer program to create a comic book for sharing health messages,” Macechko said. “Naturally, I thought of Rox, as our mascot is known by school-age children as a way of sharing health messages.”

The comic books all develop a story around the five health messages aimed at physical and mental well being:

• 5 fruits or vegetables per day

• 4 cups of water per day

• 3 good laughs per day

• 2 no more than two hours of screen time per day

• 1 physical activity for at least one hour per day

Those five are outlined on page two of each comic book and the five comic books being distributed each of the five months remaining in the school year will emphasize one of them.

Macechko said she had hoped to have the comic books available earlier in the school year but the process took longer than expected and she was happy to put them off a bit longer in order to get them done right.

Part of that time was spent in lining up sponsors and four partners were found to back the project—Primary Health Solutions, TriHealth Oxford Pediatrics, Butler Behavioral Health and McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital/TriHealth.

“I’m really excited. This is a really unique way to share this information with young people. It’s a mode of communication we have not tried before,” Macechko said. “We’ll see how students respond. I think they will be beyond excited to see their pictures in print.”

Approximately 30 children from all three elementary schools took part in the photo sessions, posing with Rox the Oxford Fox in a variety of settings. Using those pictures, Banscum and student intern Payton Messner, who worked with the coalition, created the stories. As elements of the stories required additional pictures, students were brought back for more photos.

All five books are largely completed with the first one to be sent out in the Friday Folders this month while final editing and review is being done on the other four, which will go out, one a month February through May.

In an on-line article written last year for the Miami College of Education, Health and Society, Branscum said using the comic book format actually serves several purposes, among them tapping in a long history of being used to increase literacy.

“They can expose children to words they might not be familiar with,” Branscum said. “That combination of pictures and words helps build vocabulary.”

He further noted in that on-line story combining real photos with classic comic book elements is a way to create a personal connection with local students. That is being done using a program called Comic Life.

“This is the first time I’ve worked with an organization who had a mascot, who wanted to develop comics around that mascot, that had healthy messages already,” Branscum said. “So, if this launch is successful, and then there’s more interest, it’ll get bigger and bigger.”

The five comic book titles for this year are:

• The Curse of the Solar Exclipse

• The Attack of the Screen Zombies

• The Amazing Powers of Super Foods

• Pranksters and Jokesters

• Frozen in Time: The Game of Tag

Macechko echoed that saying they hope to develop a new comic book series next year. She hopes to develop a sort of focus group of kids to get their reactions to this year’s series to make improvements on later generations of the Rox comic books.

For now, however, getting the first issues into the hands of district elementary students will be enough of an accomplishment.

“It’s been a process. All five are ready. They are very clever,” she said. “I’m very grateful to our partners for making this possible. It’s been really fun. I can’t wait to see them in the hands of kids.”

About the Author