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Why Visual Literacy?

We’ve all heard the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Learning to read those pictures gives us advantages in both work and life.

As infants, we learn to read images months before we become verbal and years before we attempt to become fluent in written language. Have you ever seen a toddler who can communicate through sign language before learning to speak? From a young age, a great deal of educational emphasis is placed on teaching children how to identify and read words and understand their meanings. So too do we need to learn to identify, read, and understand images – to become literate in visual language – in order to communicate successfully in our increasingly image-saturated culture.

Visual Literacy and the Toledo Museum of Art

At the Toledo Museum of Art, visual literacy is defined as being able to read, comprehend, and write visual language.

Although we are immersed in visual language, few of us stop to consider exactly how it works or how we might master it. Art museums, the repositories of the greatest examples of visual communication in human history, are specially equipped to help people learn how to unlock the meanings of images. At the Toledo Museum of Art, this process is called The Art of Seeing™.