Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Multimodal Literacy Narratives: Weaving the Threads of Young Children's Identity through the Arts

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Multimodal Literacy Narratives: Weaving the Threads of Young Children's Identity through the Arts

Article excerpt

The current study examines how children develop multimodal narratives through the construction of quilt squares and I Am poetry. Creating visual narratives through the use of personal artifacts lays the foundation for this artistic multiple literacy experience. The study focuses on the process and growth that a diverse group of kindergarten children underwent over the course of 9 weeks. How children reveal their identity texts through multimodal engagements reflects the significance of being able to understand, communicate, and think in alternative ways. Such opportunities offer children ways to represent the importance of being in the social world and document their personal narratives in nontraditional forms of literacy. The learning environment must engage children in experiences that empower them to make their thoughts public and to change how they think, view, and situate themselves in the world.

Keywords: early childhood, multimodalities, early literacy, early childhood curriculum, art education, narrative

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Children are prodigious creators of art. Their pictorial representations have been interpreted developmentally (Golomb, 1992; Kellogg, 1970; Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1964), holistically and aesthetically (Eisner, 2002; Read, 1956), as iconicities (Kindler & Darras, 1997), and socioculturally (Wilson & Wilson, 1984). Although there is an understanding that art is more than a complement, or a backseat, to literacy learning (Binder, 2004; Dyson, 1993; Kind, 2005; Pahl, 2007; Steele, 1998), more exploration is needed in understanding the influence of multimodal experiences with young children.

The New London Group (1996) provided a compelling framework for redefining the traditional definition of literacy, embracing a "multiplicity of discourses" (p. 61). Multiple forms of literacy are defined as situational, instructional, critical, and transformative, whereby a "transfer in meaning-making practices ... puts the transformed meaning to work in other contexts or cultural sites" (p. 88). The New London Group and Eisner (1998) suggested these multiple forms of literacy reconceptualize the traditional notion of literacy and engage in what is defined as multiple literacies, whereby meaning-making and communication are represented not only through language, but also through other forms of nontextual modes. Jewitt and Kress (2003) pushed the discussion by examining multimodal literacies within semiotic and artistic constructs that acknowledge the myriad ways of communicating. Although the literature supports the use of multimodal approaches to define literacy in the lives of young children (Flewitt, 2008), there still appears to exist an approach toward using the arts as an alternative to text, or using experiences that are arts-based to support or enhance literacy. Narey (2009) advocated for using the arts as a process that develops and extends language, literacy, and meaning-making. Viewing the arts as literacy offers another lens on viewing young children's meaning-making and on how they make their graphic thought visible through visual narratives.

The current research study examined how children develop multimodal narratives through the construction of quilt squares that used personal artifacts, or "things of importance," to represent who they were and what was important in their world. The use of "I Am" poetry (Ada & Campoy, 2004) augmented the visual narratives or story quilts, empowering and validating children' s voice in this artistic multimodal experience. The study focused on the processes and growth that a group of diverse kindergarten children underwent over 9 weeks and explored the multimodal experiences through the arts and how they transformed young children's literacy understanding of identity texts. Revealing their identity texts (Cummins, 2004) through multimodal engagement reflects the significance of being able to understand, communicate, and think in alternative ways and illuminates how children navigate the relational landscape of their visual literacy narratives. …

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