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Too many pictures in books hinder children's word learning

By Amy Wallace
A new study by the University of Sussex has found that storybooks with too many pictures may actually hinder children's word learning ability. Photo by <a class="tpstyle" href="https://pixabay.com/en/learning-development-looking-people-164331/">PublicDomainPictures/PixaBay</a>
A new study by the University of Sussex has found that storybooks with too many pictures may actually hinder children's word learning ability. Photo by PublicDomainPictures/PixaBay

June 30 (UPI) -- A recent study by the University of Sussex suggests that storybooks for children having too many pictures can limit word learning among young readers.

Psychologists at the University of Sussex found, in a study published June 30 in Infant and Child Development, that more than one illustration or picture per page can cause poorer word learning among preschool children.

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"Our findings fit well with Cognitive Load Theory, which suggests that learning rates are affected by how complicated a task is," Zoe Flack, doctoral researcher at the University of Sussex, said in a press release. "In this case, by giving children less information at once, or guiding them to the correct information, we can help children learn more words."

Researchers read storybooks to 3-year-olds with one picture at a time and with two pictures at a time that introduced children to new objects that were named on the page.

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Children who were read stories with just one picture or illustration at a time learned twice as many words compared to children who were read books with two or more illustrations per page.

"Luckily, children like hearing stories, and adults like reading them to children," Flack said. "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."

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In another experiment, researchers added a hand swipe gesture to help children look at the right illustration before the page was read, which helped the children learn words when there was two illustrations across the page.

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"Other studies have shown that adding 'bells and whistles' to storybooks like flaps to lift and anthropomorphic animals decreases learning," Dr. Jessica Horst, co-author of the study, said. "But this is the first study to examine how decreasing the number of illustrations increases children's word learning from storybooks."

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