This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Effect of Text Illustrations on Young Children's Vocabulary Acquisition and Construction of Meaning During Storybook Read Alouds




Willett, Ann

Type of Degree



Curriculum and Teaching


The effectiveness of illustrations for increasing students’ vocabulary knowledge and construction of meaning during storybook read alouds had been studied extensively. Although decades of research have suggested that illustrations may improve story recall, there were also contradictory findings that indicated pictures inhibited young children’s construction of meaning. This study examined the effects of withholding the presentation of illustrations until the text was discussed so that young children could construct their own meaning from the text, rather than relying on pictures to gain meaning. The method of temporarily withholding pictures provided a scaffold and encouraged student talk before, during, and after the story to support students’ ability to construct meaning from decontextualized language. This study investigated two hypotheses for how the delayed presentation of illustrations influenced students’ learning during read alouds. One hypothesis explored the theory that the removal of pictures enabled the student to focus on the linguistic content of the text. The second theory examined how the removal of pictures until each portion of the text was discussed acted as a scaffold for younger students. Sixty-four first grade students participated in a read aloud of Jan Brett’s The Mitten. Students in the picture-withheld treatment group did not view the illustrations until the corresponding portion of the text was discussed; whereas, the text and treatment group had pictures presented as the story was read aloud. A statistical analysis of means indicated there was not a significant difference in vocabulary and comprehension performance when pictures were withheld. However, students identified as less-proficient readers from the pre-test performed better when the presentation of pictures was delayed until the text had been discussed, which suggested that the practice of withholding pictures may have served as a scaffold for building meaning while requiring the student to focus on the linguistic content of the text.