Drawing and Language Education

The Drawing Network is an informal group of parents, teachers, academics and citizens concerned with children's learning through drawing. Drawing, as children use it spontaneously, is more than an art technique; it is a language medium. Throughout the learning years, spontaneous drawing is a potential source of language values. Adult involvement - ensuring that there is time for a 'daily draw', and offering suggestions of themes - helps the child's drawing sessions to become rich learning opportunities. Children come to drawing naturally, but their development of this language must not be left to them any more than we would leave verbal or written literacy to develop spontaneously.

These are the advantages of drawing-as-language:

  • It is uncoded whereas literacy requires mastery of several codes
  • It is spontaneous
  • Spontaneity promotes empathy, currently in very short supply and for which there is a growing need
  • Drawing results in the integration of perceptions, thoughts, feelings and memories
  • The integration of these faculties is closely related to mental health and mental development
  • Drawing has a strong positive effect on literacy
  • Drawing is the arts medium that offers the best opportunity to turn specific life encounters (real, observed, remembered, or imagined) into language artifacts that radiate 'aesthetic energy' and some that rise to the status of art.

Drawing is the language most useful for processing the negative and positive experiences of growing up. It is the language that helps the child master the codes of literacy, and experience daily empathy, aesthetic energy, and the pleasures of making art.

Bob Steele, Associate Professor (Emeritus) UBC June 21, 2113