Letter: Drawing on the roots of literacy

Did you know that spontaneous drawing is a second ‘language’ that children find easy to use because it doesn’t require a code?

The Drawing Network is reaching out to educators and parents in an effort to spread the word about drawing as a path to literacy.

To the editor;

If you have children you are probably interested in literacy and how it is best taught at home and school. Did you know that spontaneous drawing is a second ‘language’ that children find easy to use because it doesn’t require a code? Moreover, research tells us that it significantly aids literacy.

It begins with an exploratory scribble in the second year and quickly develops into symbolic representations, e.g. a circle with ‘happy face’ for humans. It evolves further into a complex vehicle for sustained storytelling, with a symbol for everything that matters to the story.

Literacy comes into it:

• When themes are discussed by the child artists and caregiver

•  We assume that as the child draws, a silent monologue accompanies the flow of the drawing

•  Key words are added adjacent to the image or as a caption for full-blown text

• Verbal fluency is further enhanced by post-drawing conversations with the caregiver. Children love to explain their drawings which are often more complex than would be possible with decoded words.

Please note: giving children “how to draw” techniques is counter productive. The child must be encouraged to ‘invent’ his or her own language of pictorial symbols. By the way, you do not have to be someone who draws nor do you have to be  a teacher.

The role for parents and teachers is to inspire and motivate and schedule regular opportunities. Children on their own have no idea of the range of themes and topics they are capable of illustrating. Without motivation they will give up and turn to television or texting friends.

A thematic guideline may help. The caregiver can visit and revisit themes related to:

• Using perception to draw something visible – children respond to things they can see including still life subjects, humans, toys, views of interiors, views out windows

• Illustrating emotions and feeling e.g. stories, situations, poems songs with an affective content

• Intellectual content – problems to solve, ideas to illustrate prompted by the pros and cons of issues and 4. based on memory – of past events or event staged for brief study and then removed.

This current project of spreading information is sponsored by the Drawing Network, an informal community of parents, teachers, academics and concerned citizens devoted to “spreading the word” about a largely overlooked language resource. There is no formal structure, no AGM, no fees or responsibilities, simply a desire to add spontaneous drawing to the home/school curriculum. We welcome correspondence and offer free help to parents and teachers who encounter problems in setting up drawing programs at home or school. Get in touch with us through email.


Bob Steele

Associate professor (Emeritus) UBC

For the Drawing Network


Just Posted

PHOTOS: Surrey crews battle house fire in Cloverdale

Drivers urged to avoid area after fire in 17200-block of 58th Avenue

UPDATED: Three people hurt after vehicle flips over in Surrey

Police say injuries were minor in Tuesday morning crash at 64th Avenue and 138th Street

UPDATE: Star Delta baseball player, 14, dies in hospital after suffering head injury

Tsawwassen resident Kyle Losse played for Delta Tigers AAA team

Unexpected noise, pollution and machinery frustrate White Rock business owners

Russell Avenue merchants say they received no advance notice

Third site of homeless housing project may be across from Surrey rec centre

This would be the third and final location for 160-unit modular housing project in Whalley

Tsunami warnings 101: Canada

Here are some things to know about tsunami alerts in Canada and how they work

Castlegar homicide victim identified

The victim was 38-year-old Jordan Workman of Castlegar, B.C.

B.C. Liberal leadership candidates get one last prime-time pitch

Leadership campaign to be decided in Feb. 3 vote

Homeless evicted from First Nation reserve land say they have nowhere to go

‘Why not just let us stay until spring?’ one camper at Chilliwack site pleads

Andrew Scheer on trade, Trump and Trudeau

Canada’s Conservative leader begins three-day visit to B.C.

Victims restrained, sex toys and cash stolen from B.C. adult store

Armed suspects sought in adult store robbery

UPDATED: 10 Safeways in Lower Mainland to close

Locations in Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam, Richmond and Mission slated to shut

Vancouver Islanders ponder need for tsunami siren song

Alarm sounds in Port Alberni but not at the DND base in Esquimalt

Five charged in bid to shut pop-up pot market in Vancouver’s Robson Square

Marijuana flower, edibles, money and some weapons were seized as part of weekend raid

Most Read