Visual Literacy

Art… this has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a young child, I was encouraged to be creative and had crayons, markers, and various craft supplies available to use on a regular basis. My great grandma taught me how to draw, play the piano, and sew. I made greeting cards and learned to tole paint and cross-stitch to create gifts to share with others.

This love for all things creative followed me into adulthood, inspired my teaching in my third grade classroom, and was a guiding force throughout my studies during graduate school. It was during this time that I began to realize the great educational importance of the creative activities I love to use with my students. Since then, I have been on a quest to learn all I can about visual literacy.

“The separation of art from life, then, is a process that often begins when children enter school. And for most children, that separation represents a loss in expressive opportunities at a time of maximum learning potential when they most need to expand, rather than limit, their communication strategies” (Gallas, 1994, p. 115).

Definition of Visual Literacy
Visual literacy, “a person’s ability to interpret and create visual information—to understand images of all kinds and use them to communicate more effectively,” is a successful strategy for all learners (Burmark, 2002, p. v).

Today the IVLA defines visual literacy as “the ability to discriminate and interpret visual actions, objects, and other images, while gaining meaning from them” (Brear, 2005, Visual Literacy section, para. 1).

In her book Creating Meaning Through Literature and the Arts, literacy professor Claudia Cornett (2003) states that, “When we teach for visual literacy, we involve children in thinking about and expressing in images what is often beyond linguistic capabilities” (p. 157). Visual literacy can help children connect to each other and the world, develop their critical thinking skills, and “gain new ways to make meaning” (Cornett, 2003, p. 155).

Brear, D. (2005). Visual literacy. Internet Sites that Work for Students and Teachers. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from

Burmark, L. (2002). Visual literacy: Learn to see, see to learn. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Cornett, C. E. (2003). Creating meaning through literature and the arts: An integration resource for classroom teachers (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Gallas, K. (1994). The languages of learning: How children talk, write, dance, draw, and sing their understanding of the world. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.


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