ake a look at this image. What is this a picture of? What colors did the artist use and why? What is the artist trying to accomplish?
This is a beautiful, brightly-colored chameleon, isn’t it? Take another look. Do you notice the feet on top of the head and in the tail? Do you see the faces near the eye and on the underside of the tail? This amazing work of art by Johannes Stötter is, in fact, two people painted to look like a chameleon.
You have just completed a very simple exercise in visual literacy. Visual literacyis defined as the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image, extending the meaning of literacy, which commonly signifies interpretation of a written or printed text.
Visual literacy is a necessity, especially in today’s society where all forms of media are filled with images and symbols, infographics, art, maps, charts, and so many other types of visual communication. And the sooner young children become visually literate, the better. It is an important skill they will use throughout their lives.
Promoting Visual Literacy with Picture Books
Recently I took my kids to see *The Very Eric Carle Exhibit at the Children’s Museum. The exhibit brought Carle’s books, including the ever-popular The Very Hungry Caterpillar, to life. Children could crawl through tall, silk grass; walk through a spider web tunnel; meander through life-size pages of a book; and participate in many other activities and crafts. Filled with images and artwork from Carle’s books and throughout his life, the exhibit offered countless visual literacy learning opportunities.
Using picture books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a great way to encourage visual literacy in your young language learners. Picture books provide many opportunities to engage children; you can ask questions about the images and allow them to share their ideas about what is happening in the story. Open-ended questions can extend the discussion on how the images, characters, and story might relate to things in their own lives, further building an understanding of the meaning behind the pictures and text. These questions and conversations promote critical thinking and help boost self-confidence.
GrapeSEED recognizes the importance of visual literacy and provides images in many of the teaching materials to help increase vocabulary and expand comprehension.
How do you promote visual literacy with your children or students? Let us know on the GrapeSEED Facebook page.
Want to have more fun with visual literacy? Take our short, eight-question personality quiz!
*Making its debut in Pittsburgh this year, the ‘The Very Eric Carle: A Very Hungry, Quiet, Lonely, Clumsy, Busy Exhibit’ will be traveling to museums all across the country over the next ten years. If you get a chance, take your children or students to see it. It is awe-inspiring and delightful for children of all ages, including us big kids!