Too many pictures in books don’t help kids learn more words

Research suggests that too many pictures on story books of children result in poorer word learning among pre-schoolers

Children may love to see pictures on their storybooks, but having more illustrations than one on a page could result in poorer word learning among pre-schoolers, new research has found.

The findings, published in the journal Infant and Child Development, present a simple solution to parents and nursery teachers for some of the challenges of pre-school education and could help in the development of learning materials for young children.

“Luckily, children like hearing stories, and adults like reading them to children. But children who are too young to read themselves don’t know where to look because they are not following the text. This has a dramatic impact on how well they learn new words from stories,” said study co-author Zoe Flack from University of Sussex in Britain.

The researchers read storybooks to three-year-olds with one illustration at a time or with two illustrations at a time, with illustrations introducing the child to new objects that were named on the page.

They found that children who were read stories with only one illustration at a time learned twice as many words as children who were read stories with two or more illustrations.

In a follow-up experiment, researchers added a simple hand swipe gesture to guide the children to look at the correct illustration before the page was read to them.

They found this gesture was effective in helping children to learn words when they saw two illustrations across the page.

“This suggests that simply guiding children’s attention to the correct page helps them focus on the right illustrations, and this in turn might help them concentrate on the new words,” Zoe said.

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