The importance of drawing in children’s literacy

Some of my daughter’s early drawings.

“Long before our children learn about the alphabet and begin to write, drawing plays an important part in their literacy.” ( – Early learning)

According to Dr Noella Mackenzie, Associate Professor in literacy studies at Charles Sturt University, we need to give children’s drawing ability the same kind of recognition that we give to their babble. When a child starts trying to utter words, we instinctively know as adults that we need to encourage and praise this, to help nurture their oral communication skills. But do we realise the importance of another, often overlooked early mode of communication… to draw?

“We need teachers to understand that drawing is an important mode of communication or text creation. It’s not just a precursor to writing real words, it’s a mode in its own right.” says Dr. Mackenzie.

According to Dr. Mackenzie, when drawing is encouraged, children can create sophisticated visual texts, which in turn enables them to instinctively start to add labels and words.

“How do we encourage them? We encourage it by valuing it. It saddens me to think that many children come to school drawing and talking but then we focus so much on the written word that the talking and drawing take second place.”

Once you start thinking about what Dr. Mackenzie is saying, you can’t help but see the difference in value we place on our children’s developmental stages. So many of us, without even realising we are doing it, place a higher value on children’s first steps, first word, the alphabet etc, but their drawing skills are seen as a kind of “nice to have but not that important really”.

Recognise the importance of the foundations of communication that children already possess and you will teach them that writing is simply an extension of these existing forms rather than a replacement.

Feed your stationery addiction

Test ride with my new Koh-i-noor pencils bought on a visit to Prague.

A part of me has always wanted to be a minimalist. But another, louder, harder-to-ignore part of me just wants to buy more stuff… particularly art materials.

Getting into sketching gives you the perfect excuse to shop without seeming too be wasting money… its an “investment” in your art…

We call it a stationery addiction for a reason. It really is addictive, and can get out of hand. But who doesn’t have fond memories of opening a brand new set of crayons or felt-tip pens when they were a kid?

Create an illusion

The painted ceiling of the Grandmaster’s palace in Valletta

Some things are set in stone and cannot be altered. But some might argue that everything is alterable, all it takes is a bit of imagination. Whichever way you see it, drawing can unlock new possibilities when dealing with home decor! You might not want to go as far as Nicolau Nasoni did in 1724, when he created this illusion of elaborate cornices and towers on the ceiling of the Grandmaster’s palace, but being able to draw can help create illusions of more space or make an awkward layout in your home more pleasing to the eye.

When you change the position of the furniture in your house you are in effect “drawing” the space with your mind and creating the illusion of a brighter/more spacious/cosier (delete as appropriate) room. That’s my excuse anyway, and I’m sticking to it. Its not procrastination. Honest.

Draw to soak up

Valletta in the winter

What better way to soak up the pleasure of a long awaited trip than to use some of those lazy days sketching your surroundings?

I hadn’t been back to my home country in just over 2 years when I drew this. The balconies and narrow streets of Valletta on a rainy day aren’t new to me, but that day I wanted to really appreciate its beauty all over again. So I sat down and drew every little detail of the architecture around me, to soak it all up like a sponge.

Play with patterns

A drawing from a photo I gifted to my dad

Patterns are such fun to draw! I’m sure you’ve seen the beautiful selection of “grown-up” colouring books on the shelves these days, boasting pages upon pages of intricate patterns for people of any skill-level to colour-in. I think they are a brilliant way to de-stress AND to experiment with colour combinations.

When I found an old photo of my dad in our old flat around the time of my birth, (I am aware that I’m giving away my age here! – nothing screams 1970s more than that rug and those sofas!) I immediately knew I wanted to get the coloured pencils out and go wild with those dots and swirls!

Drawing to inspire

Sketching the view in Gozo

The pencils scattered on the table belong to Fin, a budding wildlife specialist whose attention to detail is very impressive. I’m not sure what he thought of my rendition of the scene in front of us, but he wanted to draw at that precise moment, and so did I, so we set about our impromptu sketching session.

Finn is 5 years old. At that age, I think we watch other people very closely. When someone watches me draw, I hope it inspires them to draw too. Finn is already very keen to draw, so he doesn’t need any help from me, but I enjoyed working alongside him that day. I may have been hoping to inspire him in some way, but it works both ways: he inspired me so much with his own drawings, which I will post here with his permission.