© 2009

Making Meaning

Constructing Multimodal Perspectives of Language, Literacy, and Learning through Arts-based Early Childhood Education

  • Marilyn Narey
  • Challenges the early childhood education community to reexamine beliefs about art

  • Provides a broader understanding of the responsibilities of early childhood education in regard to arts learning

  • Demonstrates the releveancy of arts research to current issues in early childhood education

  • Provides accessible entry points by relating arts research to early childhood education professionals

  • Includes examples of research-based best practice focusing on the arts

  • Highlights the reality of the challenge of arts-based learning in today's schools


Part of the Educating the Young Child book series (EDYC, volume 2)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. Marilyn J. Narey
    Pages 1-6
  3. Beyond Words

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Margaret Brooks
      Pages 9-29
    3. Maureen E. Kendrick, Roberta A. McKay
      Pages 53-70
    4. Kimberly Sheridan
      Pages 71-88
  4. Contexts and Layered Texts

  5. Visions

  6. Back Matter
    Pages 257-258

About this book


Making Meaning: Constructing Multimodal Perspectives of Language, Literacy, and Learning through Arts-based Early Childhood Education, is a synthesis of theory, research, and practice that explicitly presents art as a meaning making process.

Respected educational theorists from John Dewey to Elliot Eisner argue for a cognitive view of art as creation of meaning. Numerous researchers from a variety of fields promote multimodal views of language, literacy, and learning. Further, while not all practitioners have the background that encourages this multimodal conceptualization, most acknowledge that the arts have a place in the early childhood curriculum, and many express concerns that mandated prescriptive practices and high-stakes test preparation leave little time for arts experiences that were once central to the early childhood curriculum. The multimodal, child-centered understandings of art as a means of "coming to know" presented in this text offer significant implications for young children’s language, literacy and learning and underscore the early childhood education professional’s responsibility to advance the arts in the various settings in which they work.

Therefore, the purpose of this book is to provoke readers to examine their current understandings of language, literacy and learning through the lens of the various arts-based perspectives offered in this volume; to provide them with a starting point for constructing broader, multimodal views of what it might mean to "make meaning;" and to underscore why understanding arts-based learning as a meaning-making process is especially critical to early childhood education in the face of narrowly-focused, test-driven curricular reforms. To that end, a group of distinguished authors will provide chapters that integrate theory and research with stories of how passionate teachers, teacher-educators, and pre-service teachers, along with administrators, artists, and professionals from a variety of fields have transcended disciplinary boundaries to engage the arts as a meaning-making process for young children and for themselves.


Arts Education Arts and Technology Classroom Environment Curriculum Difference in the Classroom Drawing to Learn Early Childhood Education English Language Learning Learning through Drama Literacy and Drawings Multiliteracies Curriculum Multiple Modes of C Studio Thinking Ways of Knowing communication

Editors and affiliations

  • Marilyn Narey
    • 1
  1. 1.East Stroudsburg University of PennsylvaniaPittsburghUSA

About the editors

As a teacher and teacher-educator, Marilyn J. Narey has extensive experience in both art education and early childhood education. During her tenure as a K-12 public school art teacher and department chair in southwestern Pennsylvania, she received multiple grants and recognition for her innovative child-centered curricular projects and partnerships. Her work in the private sector focused upon developing a successful pre-K through primary program that featured arts-based learning. Currently she is a professor of Early Childhood and Elementary Education at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. Driven by a vision of quality early childhood education that transcends disciplinary boundaries, Dr. Narey has received National and state awards for teaching excellence for her work in general education, as well as art education. Her research and publication interests include teacher quality, reflective practice, creativity, curriculum design, literacy, and instructional technology and she has presented nationally and internationally on these topics.

Bibliographic information


 “As contributors to Narey’s edited collection (2009) seem to imply, literacy is defined as a “person’s ability to make/interpret meaningful signs in a particular representational modality (e.g., print, image, film, etc.)” (p. 2). Yet, as these authors (Narey, 2009) seem to imply, our schools and education systems remain verbocentric, even in early childhood, despite our predisposition for meaning making in multiple modalities in today’s global world. Narey’s book is foundational for teaching through multiple modalities. Readers can dive into any of the aforementioned texts to opportunities for opening up spaces that invite your students to critique, design, and engage in multi- modal experiences.”


 “As a professional resource for early childhood educators, Narey’s book offers educational theory supporting multimodal teaching and educational settings. Readers will be stimulated by detailed descriptions of arts-infused curriculum and inspiring descriptions of technology used to extend learning. It is a valuable reference for anyone interested in learning more about multimodal learning.”


Excerped from:

Professional Book Reviews: Critique! Design! Engage! Opening New Spaces for Multimodal Experiences, Deidre Clary, Amy Johnson Lachuk, Andrew M. Corley, and Lucy Spence. Language Arts, Volume 89 - Number 2, November 2011.


Copyright 2011 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Used with permission.