12 Art Activities to Build Literacy Skills

Art Activities to Build Literacy Skills

When I started working at an arts-integrated school early in my teaching career, I often wondered how I would connect art and academics. In an educational landscape focused on standardized test scores and data, it seemed that the two were mutually exclusive.

What I found, of course, was the exact opposite! Combining art with other subjects⁠—such as literacy, science, and math⁠—helps students develop a creative understanding of the world around them. Not every school has a robust arts-integrated curriculum, so here are some easy ways to incorporate art and early literacy into your child’s day-to-day life.

Reading and Writing

  • Invite your child to paint a self-portrait and write (or dictate) a description. Do this monthly, and ask them to embellish both the portrait and descriptions with details like favorite color, game, or food.
  • Write in clay, play dough, or shaving cream. Children love getting messy and using their hands. This is a great way to practice forming letters, words, or even sentences.
  • Create poetry using a simple prompt. For example, writing “I like…” on each line and providing your child with different topics (food, animals, travel, etc).
  • Model journaling. Share different ways to keep track of thoughts, ideas, and feelings.
  • Practice letter-sound awareness by painting your own animal alphabet. Write each letter in marker and then have your child illustrate the card with a corresponding animal (e.g., M for monkey).
  • Invite your child to carefully examine the illustrations in picture books. See how they tell a story. This is a helpful pre-reading skill as children learn how words are connected to pictures.

Listening and Speaking

  • Notice patterns in songs. Identify rhyming words, repetitive lines, and clap or dance to the rhythm of the song.
  • Sing along with songs to encourage vocabulary development and improve memory.
  • Ask your child to describe what they see in paintings, illustrations, and photographs.This will help them use adjectives and will support language mastery.
  • Invite your child to narrate a story as they play. This encourages creative storytelling.
  • Act out or retell familiar stories. This will help children practice sequencing skills.
  • Plan out bigger projects allowing your child to lead. This will provide valuable practice in presenting and sharing ideas with others.

Using the arts can not only boost literacy skills in young children, it can also cultivate a deeper love of learning.

By Jasmine Gibson, an educational consultant with expertise in early elementary education, supporting teachers, and designing curriculum. 

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