How it Works


We demystify complexity in reading and writing and treat it as a pretext for play.

Pre-Texts turns the conventional order of learning upside-down. Instead of beginning with vocabulary and grammar, which can bore students and risk their dropping out, we begin with a creative challenge: transform a complex text into your own work of art.


The Pre-Texts model is not a detailed recipe for innovation. It is ever-changing and incorporates the tastes and skills of participants and their interpretation and re-interpretation of difficult, classic texts through a range of media which may include painting, music, theatre, dance, and more. While each Pre-Texts program will take on particular characteristics, depending on the available arts and languages, all programs share the basic features:

  1. A work of literature in English, narrative or poetry, serves as the core material to be interpreted through a variety of artistic media.
  2. Student journals and books are made from recycled materials á la Cartonera.
  3. Each session develops a new activity, a creative interpretation, with the “original” text treated here as recycled material.
  4. Students and facilitators develop “ownership” of their artistic interventions and of the literary material. Native languages are used at the facilitator’s discretion to develop interpretation of target texts.
  5. A culminating project, exhibition and/or show, presents the work of the program to parents, supporters, and community.

What about training?

Through art-making workshops, our approach trains teachers, artist, and educators as facilitators for creative explorations of challenging texts. We host training workshops at Harvard University, schools, community centers, art spaces, and internationally.

If you are interested in a workshop, email or

Pre-Texts Goals

  1. To promote student’s ownership of literary texts.
  2. To experience creative thinking as critical thinking.
    “We are just little kids, and we have so many questions.” -Hala, 9 years old, Samuel Adams Elementary School-Boston, Spring 2013
  3. To recognize that interpretation involves and validates one’s own experience.
  4. To show that texts need creative intervention in order to make sense.
    “This is so much more interesting than just reading the text. Learning is made much more fun.” -Mali, National KaohSiung Normal University-Taiwan, October 2013
  5. To illustrate that language is an art that can trigger other artistic processes.
  6. To foster admiration among participants, the foundation of civic culture.


Learning Objectives

  1. To Develop Critical Thinking: Critical thinking is appreciable in the children’s ability to imagine new relationships and outcomes by altering pre-existing literary texts.
  2. To Increase Reading Enjoyment: Pleasure and play are central determinants in children’s desire to read and/or continue reading in the future. Reading enjoyment leads to continued reading and improvement in literacy levels over time.
  3. To Develop Artistic/Literacy Skills: Artistic engagement with literature develops literacy and creative faculties jointly.

Target Outcomes

  1. Short-term Outcomes
  2. Intermediate-term Outcomes
  3. Long-term Outcomes

Short-term Outcomes

  • Increased Awareness: students discover that a classic text can be used for creative interventions.
  • Increased Knowledge: students realize that reading and writing are two moments of the same creative process. Reading is not passive but instead an active component of authorship. They also learn vocabulary, grammar, and literary figures from a classic text.
  • Improved Skills: students use language as an artistic medium to trigger other artistic activities.
  • Increased Motivation: students express a heightened desire and interest in reading. They use literary texts to explore their own experiences and concerns.
  • Improved Attitude: students perceive reading and writing as opportunities for play rather than impositions or homework. Newfound admiration for fellow artists

Intermediate-term Outcomes

  • Improved Practices: educators incorporate more challenging texts and imaginative interpretation strategies to raise learning expectations and results among students.
  • Improved Habits: students show positive literacy development and reading habits in their classes.
  • Improved Staff Engagement: positive engagement among instructional staff occurs due to the collaboration between artists/educators and classroom teachers.
  • Improved Student Behavior: when using literary texts as a precursor for creative activities, students develop self-authorizing confidence as well as admiration for each other along with the necessary skills to process emotional challenges.
  • Improved Procedures: educators incorporate arts in their curriculum as vehicles for teaching other subjects.

Long-term Outcomes

  • Improved Environment: students will discover their capabilities to analyze, intervene, and transform their own world in an innovative and effective way.
  • Improved Social Conditions: schools, communities, and families will benefit from the positive impact of more engaged students.
  • Improved Economic Conditions: students with better literacy skills have greater possibilities for accessing higher education and jobs.
  • Improved Political Conditions: students will develop civic values through their creative participation in society as they evaluate their world and sense of conformity.  Society is now perceived as a work in progress that invites citizens to make changes and explore possibilities.