Arts with Literacy Integration®


… if it should turn out that music leads to language, rather than language leads to music, it helps us understand for the first time that the otherwise baffling historical fact that poetry evolved before prose. Prose was at first known as pezos logos, literally ‘pedestrian, or walking, logos’, as opposed to the usual dancing logos, or poetry. In fact early poetry was sung: so the evolution of literacy skills progresses…from right-hemisphere music (words that are sung), to right–hemisphere language (the metaphorical language of poetry), to left-hemisphere language (the referential language of prose).
~Iain McGilchrist, psychiatrist and writer

BirdArt with Literacy Integration® puts the cart before the horse according to the standard—‘literacy with arts integration’ or ‘integration of visual arts with literacy’ or ‘arts integrated learning’—of educational theory and practice.
In these instances literacy and other prescribed subjects of school learning preexist—are primary; and art—secondary—comes along and gets added in. This is how it was taught in my educational training. This is what I have been hired to teach in the past. This is how, in hyper-literate culture, it is ingrained conceptually. However, it is not what I teach or advocate.


Arts with Literacy Integration® demands the recognition and application that evolutionarily and developmentally non-verbal ways of knowing, communicating, and learning
antedate verbal language both spoken and written. And that the non-verbal intelligences—moving-feeling-imagining—are inherently aesthetic in nature.

Non-verbal intelligences are the foundation for, as well as the result of, our innate psycho-biological orientation to make meaning metaphorically and across-sensory modes—how a sound can evoke a color, or a gesture evoke a sound, or a shape evoke an emotion.

These examples of motor-sensory-feeling-imaginative correspondences are instances of synesthesia, an inherent aspect of art-making. This can be seen in the communicative musicality to be found in the many voices of Nature and in the moving-sounding improvisational dyad between mother and infant.

These primary non-verbal intelligences are processed and developed in the right hemisphere of our brains.

Arts with Literacy Integration® is about humans first and foremost as art-makers—Homo Aestheticus as Ellen Dissanayake1 puts it. It harkens to a time before art-making was named as a distinct human activity separated out, compartmentalized and marginalized from the daily fair of human life ways.


1Ellen Dissanayake is a scholar in the anthropological study of art and culture.


Photo Credit: Rebecca R Burrill, 2 Google Search, Respectively
Watercolor: Rebecca R. Burrill (2007)