Illustrations help to make books more appealing to children, and also help to engage the reader, according to an article entitled, “The Influence of Illustrations in Children’s Storybooks,” published in Reading Psychology. In preliminary testing, this study found that books that attract children, whose grade levels range from kindergarten to third grade, are books containing brightly colored, cartoon-like characters. When further studying this phenomenon, this age group was found to prefer brightly colored, realistic drawings. Even more interesting is the effect that these illustrations, when matched with text, had on comprehension. The findings of this Reading Psychology study were that, “Illustrations do seem to influence comprehension and children’s preferences for books in general.”
So often, teachers and parents of kindergarten through third grade children quickly move into using text-only children’s literature, leaving illustrated children’s books behind at a younger and younger age. Yet, theories have been put forward that when books are re-read, comprehension and memory increases (Gyselinckand Tardieu, 1999). The Reading Psychology article states, “pictures lure children to read and interact with the text and provide mental images, allowing them to understand the written text more easily and remember it longer (Fang, 1996)”
I’m reminded that the findings of this study are true on a daily basis. When my books, Did You Make the Hole in the Shell in the Sea? and The Bumpy, Lumpy Horseshoe Crab are sitting on a table during a sea animal program, I often see students choose one of these books to re-read, or to study the illustrations more closely. Some students have chosen to look at one of these books even when live sea animals or toys were available.
While text-only books are an inevitable progression in a student’s development, brightly colored, illustrated children’s books with matching text can be a fun way for students to develop their reading skills, and learn at the same time. When that text is rhythmic and rhyming, with the addition of occasional repeating text, and illustrations that match perfectly with the text, that’s a great book for students, kindergarten through third grade, to use to sharpen their reading skills.
(This study can be found published in Reading Psychology, Vol. 23(4), 323-339)
(To learn more, please visit: http://laurenscharff.com/research/develread.html)