It's not a bird yet


"Just as infants constantly practice making sounds, so young drawers fill sheets with shapes which may seem very similar. Yet when you compare markings of even only a few days apart, you will notice differences."
-ursula kolbe-

The information in It's Not a Bird Yet: The Drama of Drawing is nothing shocking or new. But Ursula Kolbe takes children's drawing experiences and slows them down, and looks at each time a child draws as a full experience.

After finishing the book, I made it a point to slow myself down a bit this week and watch and listen to drawing experiences in the classroom. At one point in the book, Kolbe talks about children as "pattern makers". That term makes me think of A-B-A-B patterns - lining up colored beads or animals. But to a child, a pattern is the label for something that repeats. So perhaps it is that A-B-A-B pattern that we have in mind, but it might be a sun with lines coming out everywhere, or vertical lines down a page over and over again. Two children were talking about patterns in the classroom on Tuesday - one was tracing flower petals onto a group mural and invited the other one: "Look at my pattern!" Her friend responded, "I love your pattern! Can I help with it?" They traced flower petals together, with a complete understanding of what the pattern was.

A second part that I felt I experienced this week was imaginative play and drawing as one. Kolbe says, "drawing...by many young children -- is about actions and events in time. It's not about making a picture of how things look." On Wednesday, one girl spent ten minutes drawing a curved shape, and then coloring it in with a crayon. While she was filling it in, she talked and sang about princesses, ghosts, parties, animals, sharks, and splashing water. Although her finished drawing was a simple shape, there was so much more to it.

I love reading a book like this. I spent a few evenings looking at the photos, reading the text, and going back to favorite sections. This is a nice book for an experienced teacher or a novice one. She comes from the point of view of an artist who loves to work with very young children, which is quite unique. Plus her work here is concentrated on one- to six-year-olds. In my school, I feel like a lot of attention is put on reading and writing for first and second graders in our center, so we don't get to talk about things like the drawings the children are making throughout the building. I'm talking about this book to the early childhood faculty on Monday, and I'm pretty sure I'll be lending my copy around for a while.

I think I'll be picking up a copy of Rapunzel's Supermarket: All about Young Children and Their Art now - that is Kolbe's first book. She really has a way of slowing down children's experiences and seeing each moment as important. And her work is really about children being children, and us watching and supporting as needed.

What are you reading right now?