Encouraging a Dynamic Relationship Between the Arts and Literacy

  • Georgina Barton
  • Robyn Ewing


This chapter addresses the ongoing tensions between the arts and literacy by illustrating how the association between the two can be dynamic and rewarding rather than competitive. We acknowledge a more inclusive definition of literacy as ‘interpretive and expressive fluency through symbolic form, whether aural/sonic, embodied, textual, visual, written or a combination of these within context’ (Barton, 2014a, p. 3). We then demonstrate how the key aims of the UNESCO Road Map for Arts Education [UNESCO. (2006). Road map for arts education. The world conference on arts education: Building creative capacities for the 21st century, Lisbon, 6–9 March 2006] uphold the human right to education and cultural participation; develop individual capabilities; improve the quality of education; and promote the expression of cultural diversity; and can be realized by highlighting the unique literate practices that underpin effective arts education programs and creative teaching and learning in schools. Finally, several contemporary examples of transformative arts and literacy learning and teaching will be shared to demonstrate how the relationship between arts and literacy should and can be seamless and flourish to enhance a more authentic notion of deep literacy and understanding in today’s increasingly global community.


  1. Adams, J. (2011). The degradation of the arts in education. International Journal of Art & Design Education, 30, 156–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Apple, M. (1990). Ideology and curriculum (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Archer, M. (2007). Making our way through the world: Human reflexivity and social mobility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barton, G. M. (2013). The arts and literacy: What does it mean to be arts literate. International Journal of Education and the Arts, 14(18).Google Scholar
  5. Barton, G. M. (2014a). Literacy and the arts: Interpretation and expression of symbolic form. In G. M. Barton (Ed.), Literacy in the arts: Retheorising learning and teaching (pp. 3–17). Switzerland: Springer Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barton, G. M. (2014b). Encouraging productive arts-literacy dialogues: A call to action. In G. M. Barton (Ed.), Literacy in the arts: Retheorising learning and teaching (pp. 287–293). Switzerland: Springer Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barton, G. M., & Baguley, M. (2014). Learning through story: A collaborative, multimodal arts approach. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 13(2), 93–112.Google Scholar
  8. Barton, G. M., Baguley, M., & MacDonald, A. (2013). Seeing the bigger picture: Investigating the state of the arts in teacher education programs in Australia. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 38(7), http://ro.ecu.edu.au/ajte/vol38/iss7/6
  9. Bezemer, J., & Kress, G. (2008). Writing in multimodal texts: A social semiotic account of designs for learning. Written Communication, 25(2), 166–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bona, M., Rinehart, J., & Volbrecht, R. (1995). ‘Show me how to do like you’: Co-mentoring as feminist pedagogy. Feminist Teacher, 9(3), 116–124.Google Scholar
  11. Chandler, D. (2002). Semiotics: The basics. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2000). Multiliteracies: Literacy learning and the design of social futures. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Cremin, T., & Myhill, D. (2012). Writing voices: Creating communities of writers. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Deasy, R. J. (2002). Critical links: Learning in the arts and student academic and social development. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers.Google Scholar
  15. Delamont, S., & Atkinson, P. (1995). Fighting familiarity: Essays on education and ethnography. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.Google Scholar
  16. Ewing, R. (2002). Framing a professional learning community: An Australian case study. Curriculum Perspectives, 22(3), 23–32.Google Scholar
  17. Ewing, R. (2006). Reading to allow spaces to play. In R. Ewing (Ed.), Beyond the reading wars towards a balanced approach to helping children learn to read. Primary English Teaching Association: Sydney.Google Scholar
  18. Ewing, R. (2010a). The arts and Australian education: Realising potential. Camberwell, Victoria: Australian Council for Educational Research.Google Scholar
  19. Ewing, R. (2010b). Literacy and the arts. In F. Christie & A. Simpson (Eds.), Literacy and social responsibility: Multiple perspectives (pp. 56–70). Bristol, CT., USA: Equinox Publishing.Google Scholar
  20. Ewing, R. (2015). Dramatic play and process drama: Towards a collective zone of proximal development to enhance language and literacy. In S. Davis, B. Ferhold, H. Grainger-Clemson, S. Jansson, & A. Marjanovic-Shane (Eds.), Dramatic interactions in education. Vygotskian and sociocultural approaches to drama, education and research. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  21. Ewing, R., Manual, J., & Mortimer, A. (2015). Imaginative children’s literature, educational drama and creative writing. In J. Turbill, G. Barton, & C. Brock (Eds.), Teaching writing in today’s classrooms: Looking back to look forward (pp. 107–122). South Australia: Australian Literacy Educators’ Association.Google Scholar
  22. Ewing, R., Miller, C., & Saxton, J. (2008). Spaces and places to play: Using drama with picture books in the middle years. In M. Anderson, J. Hughes, & J. Manuel (Eds.), Drama teaching in English: Action, engagement and imagination (pp. 121–135). Oxford University Press: London.Google Scholar
  23. Fiske, E. (Ed.). (1999). Champions of change: The impact of the arts on learning. Washington DC: Arts Partnership & President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.Google Scholar
  24. Freebody, P. (2007). Literacy education in school: Research perspectives from the past, for the future. Camberwell, Australia: Australian Council for Educational Research.Google Scholar
  25. Gibson, R. (2011). Evaluation of school drama, 2010. Unpublished Report, University of Sydney, Sydney.Google Scholar
  26. Gibson, R. (2012). Evaluation of School Drama, 2011. Unpublished Report, University of Sydney, Sydney.Google Scholar
  27. Gibson, R. (2013). Evaluation of School Drama, 2012. Unpublished Report, University of Sydney, Sydney.Google Scholar
  28. Gibson, R., & Smith, D. (2013). School drama project meta-evaluation, 2009–2012. Unpublished Report: University of Sydney.Google Scholar
  29. Graves, D. (1983). Writing: Teachers and children at work. Exeter: Heinemann Educational Books.Google Scholar
  30. Handerhan, E. C. (1993). Literacy, aesthetic education and problem solving. Theory into Practice, 32(4), 244–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jewitt, C. (2006). Technology, literacy and learning: A multimodal approach. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Kress, G., & Van Leeuwen, T. (2001). Multimodal discourse: The modes and media of contemporary communication. London: Hodder Arnold Publication.Google Scholar
  33. Kress, G., & Van Leeuwen, T. (2006). Reading images: The grammar of visual design (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Le Cornu, R. (2005). Peer mentoring: Engaging pre-service teachers in mentoring one another. Mentoring and Tutoring, 13(3), 355–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lemke, J. (2002). Travels in hypermodality. Visual Communication, 1(3), 299–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Livermore, J. (Ed.). (1994). More than words can say: A view of literacy through the arts. National Affiliation of Arts Educators (NAAE), Australian Centre for Arts Education.Google Scholar
  37. Lowe, K. (2002). What’s the story? Making meaning in primary classrooms. Sydney: Primary English Teaching Association.Google Scholar
  38. Manuel, J., & Smith, D. (2015). Sydney story factory: Interim evaluation report. Sydney: University of Sydney.Google Scholar
  39. O’Toole, M. (1994). The language of displayed art. Leicester: Leicester University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Ryan, M. E. (2014). Reflexive writers: Rethinking writing development and assessment in schools. Assessing Writing, 22, 60–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ryan, M. E., & Barton, G. M. (2014). The spatialized practices of teaching writing: Shaping the discoursal self. Research in the Teaching of English, 48(3): 303–329. Special Issue.Google Scholar
  42. Saunders, J. (2015). School drama: A case study of student academic and non-academic outcomes. Sydney: Unpublished Master of Education (Research) Dissertation.Google Scholar
  43. Seidel, S., Tishman, S., Winner, E., Hetland, L., & Palmer, P. (2009). The qualities of quality. Understanding excellence in arts education. Cambridge, MA: Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Wallace Foundation.Google Scholar
  44. United Nations. (2015). The millenium development goals report. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  45. Unsworth, L. (2001). Teaching multiliteracies across the curriculum: Changing contexts of text and image in classroom practice. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Winner E., Goldstein, T., & Vincent-Lancrin, S. (2013). Art for art’s sake: The impact of arts education, Overview. OECD Publishing. http://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/ART%20FOR%20ART’S%20SAKE%20OVERVIEW_EN_R3.pdf
  47. Wright, S. (2012). Children, meaning-making and the arts (2nd ed.). Frenchs Forest, Australia: Pearson education.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Georgina Barton
    • 1
  • Robyn Ewing
    • 2
  1. 1.Griffith UniversityMt GravattAustralia
  2. 2.University of SydneySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations