Comics & Literacy

New Media Literacies and Comics

Educational Stakes of Visual Literacy

Tyner (1998) describes visual literacy as a reaction " a relative neglect of design, aesthetics, and graphics in the teaching of literacy"(67). However, reading and writing text requires visual literate practices, but of a kind that Kress and van Leeuwen (1996) call "'old' visual literacy," a regime of literacy invested in elitist Western cultural values which view reading and writing of text as the pinnacle of education, whereas "Other visual communication is either treated as the domain of a very small elite of specialists, or disvalued as a possible form of expression for articulate, reasoned communication, seen as a 'childish' stage one grows out of" (17).

Unfortunately, this historical neglect of non-textual visual communication in literacy education results in negative educational outcomes: "Visual illiteracy has been detrimental to countless students who have been made to ignore perception at the cost of their cognitive development, and ultimately their success in school and society" (Gillenwater, 2009, p. 33).
This is because the privileging of the written word above all other communication "…has a tendency to impose an inflexible and essayist literacy on pupils, who nevertheless are growing up in a world of increasing complexity of representation" (Millard and Marsh, 2001, p. 60). 

Ballet (2009) presents much the same argument in the video below: