In my years in the classroom, I have had the pleasure of teaching several
children who have either one or two artists as parents. These children,
who have a higher than average exposure to art and the media for creating
it, possess some qualities that many other children do not have: in addition
to their artistic talent, I have observed that they usually read and write
better than their peers. My conclusion, based solely on this anecdotal
evidence, is that their exposure to art affects other aspects of their
This led me to a discussion with Aiko Cuneo, an artist who works with children
in public schools, to flesh out the benefits of arts education, both in
and out of schools. We offer to you these highlights of our conversation.
* First of all, we suggest that parents expand their definition of art.
If you are a
baker or a cook, if you
like to arrange flowers, if you enjoy the harmonious arrangement of objects
in your home, you are an artist. These expressions of creativity are as
legitimate and valuable as those of painters and the other people we call
* If you are a scientist and enjoy inventing and experimenting, you bring
artistic sensibility to
your work and may include yourself in the definition of artist.
* The role of parents and teachers is to expose children to a variety of
materials so that they can create art. Once the variety is offered, children
will then have a choice as to whether they want to use the materials or
not. But without the exposure, there is no choice.
* Budding artists have a creative spirit that cannot be expressed unless
there is an exposure to art. If you start early, there is a greater opportunity
for this spirit to be identified and, therefore, grow with the child.
* Art is a delightful way through which you can record the development
of your childís growth. Just as you will notice that writing and reading
improves with age, so does artwork.
Notice the difference between a self-portrait as drawn by a kindergartner
compared to the same childís
work as a third-grader.
This column has been incorporated into Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís
Advice for Parents.