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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Art as Litearcy: Exploring the "100 Languages of Children"

Dr Ruslan Slutsky, Katherina Danko-McGhee.

Art making is a natural precursor to literacy. Children's art making is important as a nonverbal language, a system of symbols emerging from children's early scribbling (Steele, 1998). Research with younger children suggests that children who are encouraged to draw and "scribble" stories at an early age will later learn to compose more easily, more effectively, and with greater confidence than children who do not have this encouragement (Applebee, 1978, 1984; Clay, 1995). As children develop in their picture making, from scribbles to more recognizable symbols, they naturally come to a point where the adult observer is not sure if the graphic rendering is a word or a picture. Children will naturally construct visual patterns that will later be implemented in formal writing. Therefore, art making should be encouraged in order to nurture this natural process toward literacy.

Olshansky (1995) further states that, "The process of "image finding" is central to the prewriting/ideas gathering stage of the program (p.45). Her research finding suggests that the addition of the visual imagery component (art making) to the writing process nurtures imagination, more fully developed story plots, the use of more descriptive language, and the sequencing of stories with a beginning, middle and end.

To exclude art making from the early childhood curriculum would shortchange children from experiencing the world from a variety of perspectives, a unique contribution that art has to offer. By supporting art experiences in the classroom, the teacher allows the children the freedom to manipulate the numerous art resources (languages) available to them and to illustrate in their own ways their understandings of concepts and ideas.

The purpose of this presentation will be to help early childhood educators become more attuned to children's art experiences and begin to understand how such experiences help contribute to early literacy proficiency. Although art is a natural process for young children to demonstrate their knowledge it is often not one that teachers feel comfortable exploring and guiding due to their own limitations with media's. We will provide strategies and methods that will allow educators to implement art more confidently in their classrooms and that leads to more formal literacy development.


Dr Ruslan Slutsky  (United States)
Assistant Professor
department of early childhood, physical and special education
The University of Toledo

Katherina Danko-McGhee  (United States)
Early Childhood Art Education Coordinator
Art Department
University of Toledo

Dr. Danko-McGhee is published nationally and internationally with a focus in research on the aesthetic preferences of young children. She is the author of "The Aesthetic Preferences of Young Children" published by Mellen Press. She has presented research papers nationally and internationally and has been awarded "Art Educator of the Year for Higher Education " in the state of Tennessee. She is also listed in Who's Who. Dr. Danko-McGhee has 29 years of experience in early childhood art education.

  • Art
  • Reggio Emilia
  • Literacy

(30 min Conference Paper, English)