Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


Date of this Version

October 2000


Published in Early Childhood Education Journal 27:4 (2000), pp. 259–265. Copyright © 2000 Human Sciences Press; used by permission.


Young children have the strong desire to use all of the communicative tools their cultures and families offer them. They want to be able to do all of the things that the powerful people they admire can do, including talking, writing, drawing, using the computer, and otherwise creating and sharing ideas, memories, solutions, even jokes and feelings. Today, we live in a time when the communicative tools are changing rapidly, practically exploding before our eyes in terms of the formats and media available to us in complex combinations not seen before. What do these technological changes mean for how we can support children's development toward literacy?

An integrated arts curriculum has long been favored by many educators, but today there are more reasons than ever to implement such a philosophy. From communications theory comes a new understanding of how modern technologies demand that children learn to "read" and "write" messages involving complex combinations and integrations of visual and verbal formats. From psychology come insights about intelligence being multiple not unitary, as well as ecological perception theory offering a well-accepted framework for analyzing the affordances and expressive possibilities of different media. From education come fresh approaches to integrated curriculum, including a philosophy and pedagogy from Reggio Emilia, Italy, that combines well with current thinking by North Americans. Altogether, we have many rationales and exciting strategies at hand for launching young children toward an integrated visual and verbal literacy that involves substance, challenge, and discipline, as well as innovation, creativity, and freedom.