Keep It Simple: Streamlining Book Illustrations Improves Attention and Comprehension in Beginning Readers

Affiliated institutions: Carnegie Mellon University

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Description: This study used eye-tracking technology to examine whether extraneous illustrations (entertaining, but nonessential features to comprehend the story)–a design common in beginning reader storybooks–promote attentional competition and hinder reading comprehension in beginning readers. We used a within-subject design in two experiments with first and second grade children (N=120). Children were presented with a story in a commercially available “Standard” Condition and two experimental Conditions: a Streamlined Condition (Experiment 1; with extraneous illustrations removed) and a Featureless Background Condition (Control Experiment; with text placed on featureless background). The results of this study provide the first systematic analysis of whether excluding extraneous details from reading materials for beginning readers could improve reading comprehension. This study provides theoretical insights about design principles for reading materials that can be employed to optimize educational materials and promote literacy development in young children.


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