Do Picture Books Hinder a Child’s Reading Development?

We all know how important it is to read to a child. But, how does the type of material affect a child’s reading development? A new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon is shedding some light on the situation.


Kids and Picture Books


The crux of the research centers around picture books. Kids seem to gravitate towards them because they’re fun, colorful, and easy to understand. But, they could be doing more harm than good.


While picture books contain plenty of images, they’re still books that contain text that tell a story. Picture books are a good gateway to more advanced children’s books. Kids should be able to understand the story and be able to read some words as they learn to distinguish sounds and recognize sight words.


Researchers suggest that extra pictures that don’t contribute to the story could draw the reader’s eyes away from the text and make it hard to focus on the story and understand it.


They came to this conclusion by giving a group of first and second-grade students different versions of a book to see how busy picture groups can impact their comprehension. First, kids were given the book with extra pictures as researchers used a portable eye-tracker to see how many times the kids shifted their gaze from the images to the text on the page.


They were then given a streamlined version of the book that took out all nonessential images that didn’t contribute to the story. They also tracked their gaze. In the end, they found that kids reading the streamlined versions looked away from the text less and had higher reading comprehension scores. Children who were more likely to look away from the text benefited most from reading the streamlined version.


The results can lead to improvements when it comes to reading since one-third of elementary school students in the United States can’t read at grade level.


So, What’s the Solution?


Researchers do note that only one book was used in the study, so further research may be needed.


But, they say the study highlights ways that educational material can be improved. It’s not to say that kids should not read picture books. Rather, it looks at ways that reading can be made easier and eliminate some barriers that kids face.


If you want to read the complete study, it can be found in the September issue of the journal npj Science of Learning.

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