Reading through Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience was a much different read than Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimation of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”, but not because the writing style was so different. Rather it was because of the artwork. While both had artwork, Blake’s had much more intense pictures on each page of his work. The whole time I was reading Blake I felt much more engaged and intrigued. In Wordsworth’s, though I did enjoy it, I found myself drifting off from the work itself and thinking about other things (like my German homework and if pizza Lunchables are considered a decent lunch for a college senior).
From this alone I could deduce some very simple theories about art’s interaction with learning and the brain. First, that it stimulates us much more then just a blank page with words. If I hadn’t said that to you before, that just means you haven’t been listening to me. I’ve believed this for a while now (which is the reason behind my obnoxiously bright coloured pens I love so much) and preach it when I can: colour keeps you stimulated and that stimulation helps not only one engage/connect with the text, but helps them remember what one reads. Second, it sets the mood. This may be a more subconscious doing, but let’s face it, if you see a skull surrounded by flames you get a much different feeling than if you see a unicorn sprouting rainbows out it’s rear. Third, it helps with understanding. Much like comics, it can help some one know what’s happening or at the very least, the themes of a poem. For example, in Blake’s London we see in the pictures the person we can assume is the “I”, but also the old man who shows the “Marks of weakness, marks of woe” (Line 5). This adds a depth to the work and shows what the reader may not necessarily be able to envision on their own.
While this was just me taking our my rear, much like unicorns have rainbows coming out their rears apparently, there are actually studies that say similar things. Take a look at the links below and see what they say about specifically children and art.
Art and Children
The Effects of Art on Children, eHow.com
Fact Sheet About the Benefits of Arts Education for Children
How Arts Training Improves Attention and Cognition
Free Arts for Abused Children
Training in the Arts, Reading, and Brain Imaging