Drawing is the practice of visual literacy

“Researchers have argued the need for a retheorization of textual communication to include the multimodal nature of contemporary texts. However, the teaching of the ‘multiliteracies” inherent in this kind of retheorizing has to date [2001] received little systematic attention in school curricula.” Len Unsworth

“Does a parent have to be an artist, writer, mathematician or musician to help children progress from scribbles to multiple literacies? Not at all. But *practicing* multiple literacies sets a good example for children, while allowing them to take advantage of a range of symbols which are useful for thinking in a variety of ways.” Susan Rich Sheridan

Multimodal literacies, multiliteracies, multiple literacies — education researchers and up-to-date teachers are familiar with these terms, but are most parents? I hear parents talking about “reading,” “writing,” and “math,” but I do not hear much concern about a child’s ability to make, interpret, and evaluate images. Why?

Parents practice reading, writing, and math skills in front of their children. Using a cell phone to send a text message shows a child that writing is important. Why, then, do most adults buy drawing supplies for children, but draw themselves only when with a child, if at all? This sends a clear message that drawing is “kids’ stuff.”

But drawing is the practice of visual literacy. Just like being a critical reader requires writing practice, being a critical consumer of visual images requires drawing practice.  What about production of visual images on computers? This is good, and important — as typing is good and important for writing. But just like we all jot down notes even as most of our writing takes place via keyboard, so we need to have a basic habit of sketching by hand.

Feeling rusty but curious? Start with one of these options:

1) Zentangle (see What is Zentangle? and do a Google search to see many online samples)

2) Design sketchbook (see Chapter 4 Portfolio section of Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind and look at this page from Michael Bierut)

3) Illustrated journal (watch this video of Danny Gregory drawing his breakfast and then read his book The Creative License so that you can try, too, without getting discouraged)

I like to draw my water glass while waiting for my meal in a restaurant. This led to a small personal discovery. When can you find a moment to draw and what can you discover?

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