BYU Radio

Drawing to Learn Writing

by Rachel Wadham, host of “Worlds Awaiting”

In my job as the Education Librarian in the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University, the other day I was exploring some research that connects the skills of drawing and writing. Some people out there may ask, how in the world are those two things connected? Drawing and writing, while they both use our hands and some kind of writing instrument, may seem to involve such different skills and abilities that they have no deeper affiliation with each other. However, research shows us a different perspective. Many studies show that drawing is actually a very effective way to teach writing. One study found that, in particular, drawing before writing helped those who were learning English as a second language to improve their writing of informational texts. Additionally, research has shown that for younger children, making pictures is the precursor to building their writing ability later on. But drawing is not just a developmental precursor to being able to write. Studies have shown that all children integrate writing and drawing in very creative and sophisticated ways. Writing is one way we communicate, but especially in the 21st century visual images are another important means of communication. Both children and adults use these communication tools, and helping our children to understand that knowledge can be expressed in a wide range of forms is a great reason to connect drawing and writing together. Today, researchers show that writing and drawing are more connected than we may have previously thought. For example, one study found that for students who exhibited severe deficits in writing, a program that combined drawing and writing led to significant improvement in both the writing and thinking skills of the students. A fellow teacher I know who works in a local school has reported this same effect to me when he notes that as he teaches his students how to draw, he sees grand improvements in both their reading and writing abilities. While that paper with doodles along the edge may look like boredom or that grand masterpiece made with colorful crayons is only something to be mounted on the fridge, research may help us to see that maybe these drawings are really helping to support children’s development in other communication forms like writing.


Adoniou, M. (2013). Drawing to support writing development in English language learners. Language and Education, 27(3), 261-277. 

Christianakis, M. (2011). Children's text development: Drawing, pictures, and writing. Research in the Teaching of English, 46(1), 22-54. 

Sheridan, S. R. (1990). Drawing/writing: A brain research-based writing program designed to develop descriptive, analytical and inferential thinking skills at the elementary school level. Ed.D. Dissertation, University of Massachusetts. 

DISCLAIMER – “WORLDS AWAITING” BOOK REVIEWS: At "Worlds Awaiting" we discuss a wide range of information aimed at supporting adults who want to build literacy skills in their children. We understand that there is no"one size fits all" approach when it comes to children's development, so the information we provide is intended to reach a wide audience. The books and other resources we recommend will also naturally cover a wide range of interest and subject matter that addresses a range of maturity, reading, and comprehension levels. Since no one understands a child's needs better than their caretakers, we encourage families to critically select the books and resources that meet their own needs and standards.

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