An Arts Based Approach to Literacy

    Five years ago, I snuck into a crowded room in a Baltimore hotel, unknowing that my ideas about education would be forever changed. Researcher Beth Olshansky became one of my heros, as she introduced me to a constructivist model of education.  I wished someone would have taught me writing and reading in such an exciting and low pressure way.


   Beth Olshanky created a book called “The Arts Based Approach to Literacy”  based on her years of research at The University of New Hampshire. She observed children who had minds filled with vibrant imaginings and stories, but who did not like writing and reading.


   This arts based literacy program integrates children’s visual imagery into every stage of the writing process. Classes study the illustrations of famous authors and are introduced to art materials from the first day of class. Unlike traditional methods, this gives students a chance to tap into visual, kinesthetic and verbal modes of thinking. Many children who have a hard time writing in other classes, find that words come to them as they create art pieces for their books.


    Children are motivated to finish the entire writing process so they can then create handbound books, complete with their own photographs on an author’s page. Each finished book is presented to the class, and the learner is invited to share their work in an author’s circle.


    Research has shown that the learners in the arts-based literacy program display fuller expression than students in the control groups.  Personally, I have used this model to teach camps over the last several years, and I have been amazed with the results. Parents and students are often astonished by the quality of work produced in this program.


   Four Seasons Community School and The Austin Artery are excited to announce Austin’s very first arts-based literacy program beginning at Four Seasons Community School this fall.  The Kindergarten and First Grade students will spend their Tuesday and Thursday afternoons splitting time between a quiet writing space and the Art Studio as they produce their own hard bound books and plays. There will even be an option for a limited number of homeschool students (grades K - 2) to join teachers Heidi Miller Lowell and Jen Bradley.

    For more information on arts based literacy programs you might want to check out “The Power of Pictures: Creating Pathways to Literacy through Art.”   You may also contact Heidi Miller Lowell at The Austin Artery for more information.