In the spring of 2014, staff members from Mayfair Preschool approached Dr. Romules Durant, CEO/superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, about looking at a study on how to improve early literacy skills.

At the same time, representatives from the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) met with Dr. Durant regarding their own study on the same topic.

Dr. Durant brought the two groups together and a study took shape of four randomly-selected classrooms at Mayfair, said Anne Stockard, assistant director of the TPS preschool program. That first study ran from October through December of 2014 and had as its hypothesis that exposure to visual literacy will enhance cognition, visual-spatial perceptual skills, motor function and language development in young children.

Analysis of the results showed a strong correlation between exposure to visual literacy and use of Tier 2 vocabulary words. That pilot study proved so successful that this past October, Phase 2 of the study began and concluded on December 11. This was a large scale study of roughly 250 students in all of the preschool classrooms, both TPS and Head Start, at Mayfair and one Head Start classroom at Glenwood.

This second study also looked at the benefit of field trips to the museum versus seeing the art work via a poster. Results are expected in March, said Ms. Stockard

Very simply, visual literacy is the ability to read, comprehend and write visual language. In early childhood, this starts with the child’s ability to 'see' and comprehend symbols and the ability to produce what is seen and to use symbols to relate their own thoughts and feelings. First there's scribbles, then lines and shapes and then combining them to produce a meaning tied with language. For example, children seeing the golden arches as they ride in a car will then later draw the arches to represent McDonalds.

A research team from TPS, consisting of Evelyn Mylander, M.Ed.; Peggy Roth, MS, CCC/SLP; Rachel Reuss, MA, CCC/SLP and Liz Wharton, MOTR/L, designed extension activities to be used in the classroom in conjunction with activities designed by TMA. The teachers attended training in visual literacy and learned how the study would run.

A number of parents joined their child’s class, attending and participating in the art museum field trip, Ms. Stockard said, crediting the great team work of parents, teachers, secretaries, art museum staff and the leadership of Lynn Pearson, director of TPS Preschool.

Posted on January 8, 2016