Visual literacy and reading widely

Visual literacy and reading widely


If our goal with children is to help them
move towards a readerly life where they’re capable and confident in being able to read
just about anything we put in front of them, then we have to look at the reality of what
types of texts and literacy is expected out in the world. Visuals are an important part of that literacy,
which means being able to read diagrams, charts, graphs, maps, photographs, and apply those
same critical thinking skills as a reader to reading those visuals as we would want
students and children to be able to apply in texts. That’s terrible. When we begin to limit children’s access
to certain types of texts such as highly visual informational texts, websites, reading online,
graphic novels, picture books, we send an implicit message to children that some reading
is more valuable than others and some readers are more valued than others. If we really want children to be able to read
just about anything, they need to read widely and they need support from more knowing others
like parents and teachers in how to mediate those texts and understand them. That requires help. That requires support. We can’t just pretend that they won’t
ever need to read those things. With my own students I often use sports terms
because they get the analogy there. If we only read one type of text, then we
may become proficient readers in that type of text. But in order to be good all‑around readers,
we have to read a little bit of everything. It’s as if you’re learning how to play
basketball and you want to work on your jump shot. If you only practice your jump shot, you’ll
probably have a great jump shot, but in order to be a good all‑around basketball player
you have to learn how to dribble, how to pass, how to guard, how to develop teamwork skills,
and how to work on your jump shot. If we want kids to be truly literate and have
strong literacy skills, they need to read a little bit of everything. And that includes the visual literacy pieces
that are offered through illustrations, text features, and highly visual informational
text, reading online, looking at video. They need to learn that critical literacy
piece in all the ways we can define it.

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