November is National Family Literacy Month, a time to celebrate multiple generations coming together to learn. While we often associate literacy with reading, visual literacy is also an important skill that families can develop together. The museum is a wonderful place for family learning and developing visual literacy—it happens when families walk through the galleries, look closely at works of art, ask questions, participate in activities, and share stories and memories with one another.
In honor of National Literacy Month, we celebrate picture books, valuable tools for family literacy and an artform that has a natural connection to museums. Children’s picture books use words and images to tell stories. Young children and other individuals developing their literacy skills can use the illustrations in a picture book as a key to understanding narratives, making them rich and complex.
When paired with a close reading of a work of art, picture books can serve as tools to help families work through complex ideas and imagine the unknown. Reading Faith Ringgold’s Tar Beach (1991) supports a close look at Georgia O’Keeffe’s The Shelton with Sunspots, N.Y. by providing an opportunity to visualize different perspectives. Both artists are reflecting on the rapid development of New York City and the presence of towering skyscrapers in the 1920s and ’30s. O’Keeffe’s painting explores this idea by providing a view from the ground up, while Ringgold’s illustrations express what it might look like to see the city skyline from above.
Try these strategies to prepare you and your family for learning with picture books before and during your next museum visit.
Select books that introduce new or complex ideas about art, such as an artist’s biography or works on artistic processes, new perspectives, or diverse cultures.
Spend time looking closely at the illustrations, and make connections between the words and pictures. Ask questions that help readers find details in the pictures that relate to the story.
Identify the title as well as the author and illustrator of the book you’ve chosen. Define the roles of writer and artist and talk about how each contributes to the telling of the story.
Use the Art Institute’s collections pages to find works of art on view that connect to the theme or storyline of your picture book. Ask connecting questions between the book and the artwork.
Discuss the medium or style used by the book’s illustrator. Do the same for the artwork you are viewing.
Ask open-ended questions that have many possible answers. Multiple interpretations are always possible when looking at art.
Celebrate National Family Literacy Month with us! Visit the Family Room, located in the Modern Wing, and explore our wide-ranging selection of picture books—including board books for toddlers and books available in multiple languages and braille. Reread a beloved book or discover a new favorite. If you are looking for ideas to prepare for a museum visit, contact Family Programs at email@example.com.
While visiting the Family Room, create a unique story of your own using the Art Institute’s newest digital interactive JourneyMaker. JourneyMaker invites you and your family to tell a museum tale never heard before. Beginning with themes such as Superheroes, Time Travelers, or Strange and Wild Creatures, select works of art in the museum’s collection that bring your story to life. Then, travel into the galleries to explore those artworks together, guided by creative ideas and activities. With thousands of possible combinations, you’ll never tell the same story twice.
1 day 3 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW OPEN—Abstract Experiments: Latin American Art on Paper after 1950
During the mid-20th century, Latin American artists were active in the evolving international discourse on modernity, at a time of industrial expansion and political transformation in South America.
Abstract Experiments provides an illuminating complement to Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium and reflects the Art Institute’s recent efforts to expand its holdings of Latin American painting, sculpture, and works on paper.
1 day 22 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW OPEN—Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium
The Art Institute presents the first U.S. retrospective of this groundbreaking Brazilian artist. A relentless innovator always pushing the boundaries of art, Oiticica is arguably the most influential Latin American artist of the post–World War II period and is recognized for inspiring Tropicália, a powerful movement that influenced art across media in Brazil.
In addition to viewing his early works on paper, visitors are invited to take off their shoes and walk through immersive sand-filled installations, view Amazonian parrots, and try on wearable objects designed by the artist.
1 day 23 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago Whitney will be taking over our Instagram for the next 24 hours. Follow along to see posts from Max and Julien’s visit to the museum.