Art as Narratives

What about the visual arts? Are they similar to oral stories in that they ‘tell’ narratives too?


We know that alphabet letters (or scripts in other languages) symbolize units of sounds or meanings found in oral languages. But can literacy be expressed through other symbols too? Can meaning be conveyed clearly through artistic expressions?

Educators and parents in Ontario who are familiar “How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years”, understand the current emphasis in early learning programs to foster children’s communication and expressions in all its forms. Expression in all its forms is far too expansive to list or discuss here, but the document highlights the significance of offering children opportunities for creative expression of ideas, feelings and interpretations using a variety of materials.

“… some programs are rethinking art activities – moving away from using pre-cut materials or expecting children to complete specific adult-determined products and instead considering children’s art as a form of expression. When educators provide good quality materials and ample time throughout the day, children are encouraged to express themselves through drawing, painting, sculpture, movement, music, and storytelling to communicate their exploration of the materials or to represent their ideas, experiences, and understanding of the world.” (How Does Learning Happen? p.44)

By supporting children’s abilities to communicate and express themselves in multiple ways we help them build a capacity for thinking, using language, and understanding symbolism . These are foundational skills for becoming readers and writers later on.

How Does Learning Happen? is not unique in its’ encouragement of child-led art experiences. Many other early learning pedagogies across Canada identify the value of artistic expression in children’s lives.

Take a moment to reflect:

The artwork at the top of this page is an excerpt from Wallace Edward’s book “Alphabeasts”. Study the details of this picture closely and ask yourself:

Does art lead to literacy, or does literacy lead to art?

What relationship do children’s artistic expressions have in their literacy development?


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