Children’s story books can be found permeated throughout the shelves in my parent’s house, despite no children living in it for a long time. Every once in a while, I’ll look through those shelves at the books I haven’t seen or read in years; The Giving Tree, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. The stories and pictures are always familiar to me.
One study, tested how illustrations and images add to text comprehension in first and third graders. They did this by gathering 120 fourth graders and randomly assigning each to one of four conditions. In the first, the student was asked to create a mental picture of the text and were given illustrations in the book they were to read. In the second, the illustrations were removed, and in the third they had illustrations but were not asked to envision the text. The last group was a control group with no illustrations. Each child was asked to read the story then answer questions about it, being scored according to how much they remembered and their accuracy.
At the end of the study, these researchers found that the two groups who were given a story with illustrations all scored significantly higher for reading comprehension than the control group. They concluded that using illustrations and mental imagery while reading inspires deeper processing.
There are many reasons why illustrations in children's books can lead to this increased comprehension. While helping to establish a setting and mood, extend and develop plot, and serving as a contextual aid, illustrations help lure children to read and interact more with the text, therefore they pay more attention. It presents an interaction to what is going on in the story, bringing the abstract into reality. While you might initially think that illustrations hinder imagination, they can actually help to stimulate it. For example, the group who was given illustrations and asked to mentally picture the story scored the highest. The illustrations did not inhibit the children’s ability to envision the story but rather assisted in creating a more concrete picture.
Another similar study tested if there was a correlation between illustrations and reading comprehension for children in Nigeria. These researchers selected 195 children at random and gave them a questionnaire, measuring to what extent illustrations aided their reading comprehension.
Just as with the last study, these researchers found a significant influence between the two. It is mentioned that these results could be because children find illustrations a “more direct means of communication” than text, or that they are able to recognize and connect with images easier. When used to represent the narrative, illustrations lead to an increased sense of observation and aid a detailed study of the text.
This is why, at FamilyBinds, we place an emphasis on creating illustrated children’s books. Whether that illustration is a drawing or a picture, we believe that they have the impact to clarify stories and allow children to engage with it in a deeper way.
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