Literacy in the Art Classroom

At the first school I student taught at (Kennedy Longfellow School in Cambridge, MA), I saw that the art teacher loved to integrate literacy into art. She read many illustrated books to her students. Her thoughts were, “I feel that most children love illustrated books. Some younger children such as the kindergarteners may not really understand a teacher’s instructions. But when the students learn visually from a picture book, they seem to grasp the ideas better. Also, I don’t tell them to copy the illustrations from the book. They have to draw their own versions. Because their drawings are to be original, they grow to become imaginative.” (L Garcia, personal communication, 2008)

I completely agree with the teacher; the younger students seem to understand their projects better. I believe that an individual can be better at one subject than another. Yet I find that if two subjects are integrated, the student can learn better if they are stronger in one subject area and strengthen the other subject with it. Visual Arts and Language Arts seem to go hand-in-hand; they are both creative subjects and can easily be built-in together. There are so many picture books with incredible illustrations, as well as poetry that brings out such beautiful visual imagery.

I believe that integrating literacy in art and vice versa is extremely beneficial to students. Learning artistic and verbal skills at the same time improves the students’ grades and actually engages them in their project. The outcome is a brighter, more creative student. More and more classrooms are making connections between visual arts and other disciplines because they see a vast improvement in the students’ work.

These are all the ideas that were brought to my mind during my trip to Georgia this past weekend. My husband Patrick and I were in an antique shop in Greensboro, and found a section with a great selection of children’s illustrated books. Patrick scouted out “How the Elephant Got Its Trunk” by Jean Richards and illustrated by Norman Gorbaty; it was a great find! The story is cute and humorous, and the illustrations are spectacular. Gorbaty uses stencils and rolled ink to create colorful animals, trees and more using different shapes.

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