Date of Award

Spring 1988

Project Type


Program or Major

Reading and Writing Instruction

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Jane Hansen


Human thought is unique. We have the ability to create and share meaning through the use of various kinds of symbol systems. This study explored the shared dynamics of visual and verbal symbolic thought processes and their consequences for the acquisition of literacy. In particular, the study focused on the writing, reading, and drawing processes of the children in a process-based first-grade classroom.

Research methods included participant/observations, open-ended interviews, audio-taped classroom discussions and interviews, and samples of the writing and drawing of the children in the entire class, with a special focus on five of the students. A detailed analysis of the data revealed that young children strive to transfer the many dimensions of their mental images to the page, especially the dimensions of time, space, movement, and color. As they transfer these images, they rely on both words and pictures in a complementary manner, depending on the task at hand and the "cognitive bias" of the child.

This research calls for an extension of the definition of literacy to include multi-literacies, and further investigations of the fine-tuning of these literacies that occurs beyond elementary school into adulthood.