Integrating visual arts and literature is a great way to analyze, decipher and comprehend a story. We caught up with Liz Epstein, founder of Literary Masters, to ask her about her literary salons and reading groups, in addition to her thoughts on connecting visual arts with literature.
What is Literary Masters?
Literary Masters, a “Share with Creatubbles partner,” are book groups and literary salons for people who love to read and are enthusiastic about examining and discussing literature. Literary Masters run both adult salons and parent/child groups, including Mother/Daughter, Mother/Son and Father/Daughter combinations.
The parent/child groups are laidback and fun, with the central focus on engaging the kids. The aim is to nurture a passion for reading in children, and at the same time, foster critical thinking and communication skills. Discussing fiction provides a safe place for children to explore tough questions regarding real-life issues, such as bullying, relationships, grades and cultural differences. The children can then place themselves in the context of the story, understand the characters’ motivations, and ultimately answer the question, “What would I do in such a situation?” As a result, empathy is developed and interpersonal skills deepened.
Importantly, there are no wrong answers! Children learn the difference between facts and opinions as well as the ways to respectfully disagree with others. Each discussion encourages an open line of communication and likewise, open-mindedness from all participants.
Can anyone participate in Literary Masters?
Literary Masters would love to see everyone in a book club. To that end, they are currently working on modules that anyone can purchase in order to either start their own community book club or their own book club business. Examples of modules being developed are: The Literary Masters Method, How to Gather Book Club Members, How to Facilitate a Discussion, as well as an ongoing subscription service for: Book Titles and Points to Ponder. If you’re interested in creating your own book club or book club business, or would like more information on Literary Masters modules, contact Liz Epstein.
What are the benefits of integrating visual arts with literature?
Creating visual art, in response to literature, is a creative approach to exploring, interpreting and understanding the text. It is especially beneficial for children, who tend to gravitate to illustrations in order to make connections between the story and their own visual experiences. Encouraging children to illustrate characters or scenes also fosters communication, where the child is able to articulate their relationship with the text in a safe, fun and imaginative way.
Let’s hear what Liz has to say:
What prompted you to create Literary Masters? What is your mission for readers?
My own thirst for intellectual stimulation and love of learning prompted me to found Literary Masters a short nine years ago. I realized there were many individuals who, like me, wanted to read and discuss literary treasures in a deep, meaningful way but without returning to school. I had just completed my Master of Arts in English Literature, so I decided to launch book groups that emulate being in a graduate seminar—but with no papers to write or exams to take!
Our mission is to foster the love of reading while digging deep into literary treasures. We build better readers by creating engaged readers; members develop a relationship with their books that allows them to connect with and comprehend what they are reading. A community of curiosity and learning is also created as we connect with each other and ask the big, sometimes unanswerable, questions.
Most people see literary and visual arts as two separate mediums. Is there, in fact, a way to combine these two forms? What are the benefits? How do you bring this into Literary Masters’ activities?
I run Parent/Child groups starting from the 2nd grade (7 years old) and I see this all the time: children get so much out of looking closely at the illustrations in the books, while the adults barely glance at them. When we read a graphic novel in our older grades groups, the girls and boys spend a lot of time decoding, interpreting and talking about each picture frame, while the moms and dads tend to focus much more on the words. I think the parents have something to learn from their children. Illustrations are not a throwaway or minor part of the story; they are integral to its meaning.
Teachers don’t think twice about requiring students to talk or write about a story; it’s a ‘given’ that this helps the students process and understand what they have read. Great teachers also know that drawing, painting, animating, or otherwise illustrating the story are other ways to help students make meaning out of what they have read. The act of creating the artwork is an extension of exploring the story.
What advice would you give teachers and parents who are looking to integrate visual arts with literature? What methods do you find most successful?
Don’t forget about the pictures! When reading together, talk about the illustrations and what they mean. Talk about how they are carrying the meaning from the story to the reader. Ask students (and parents can ask children) to illustrate both a concrete and an abstract concept from a book. This is a wonderful way for children to deeply explore what a given text means. Personally, I don’t think it matters how well the child can draw, paint, or animate. But I think what’s important here is the process—the actual creating of art itself—more so than the end result.
Do you or your child have any creations based on literary stories? Be sure to share them with a safe, global community on Creatubbles.