Reading English Storybooks with and without Illustrations: Performance and Experiences of Young ESL Chinese Children

  • Author / Creator
    Lei, Yu
  • Illustrated books are often recommended for use in classrooms with ESL children to facilitate acquisition and learning of English. It is claimed that illustrations enable them to clarify and construct the meaning of print, and thus enhance understanding. However, extensive research with monolingual children shows that illustrations may either interfere with or enhance reading. The purpose of my study was to examine whether illustrations were beneficial to Grade 1 ESL Chinese children when reading storybooks in English. Eighty Chinese children were divided equally into two groups: more proficient and less proficient readers. For each reading proficiency group, the children were further equally divided into two illustration types: complementary and counterpoint. Within each illustration type, half of the children read the authentic storybook including words and illustrations and the other half read the same story without the illustrations. One-on-one data collection included running records of their oral reading, answers to comprehension questions, and responses to interview questions. Both qualitative and quantitative analyses of the running records and comprehension questions revealed neither the complementary illustrations nor the counterpoint illustrations helped the children to correctly decode and identify more words regardless of the children’s reading proficiency. Complementary illustrations enhanced the children’s reading comprehension only when the illustrations contain a minimum number of or no print-irrelevant details. Both the high and low proficient children’s reading comprehension was not affected by the counterpoint illustrations unless the relationship between the counterpoint illustrations and print was too complicated and thus beyond the children’s ability to understand. The children held a prevalent misconception that the function of the illustrations was to help with decoding unknown words. These results contribute to the empirical evidence on the role of illustrations and signal the need for better teaching of how to effectively use illustrations to assist with reading. Clear and precise instructions coupled with explanations to young children on the specific strategies to use to maximize the benefits of illustrations to reading are warranted. Future research to develop a more thorough and precise understanding of the role illustrations play in ESL reading comprehension is a logical next step.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Elementary Education
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Dr. Linda Phillips (Elementary Education)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Dr. Leila Ranta (Educational Psychology)
    • Dr. Jill McClay (Elementary Education)
    • Dr. Lee Gunderson (Language and Literacy Education)
    • Dr. William Dunn (Secondary Education)
    • Dr. Lynne Wiltse (Elementary Education)