The Role of Illustrations in Children’s Inferential Comprehension


Illustrations are a salient source of information in children’s books, yet their effect on children’s reading comprehension has been studied only through literal factual recall. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of illustrations on bridging inferences, an important aspect of meaning making in comprehension models. Identical short stories were presented under different illustration conditions with pictures that represented different parts of the story. Participants were 73 7- to 11-year-olds. Illustrations both facilitated and interfered with inferencing depending on the type of information depicted; however, this effect was reduced as grade increased. Additional findings were that the overall ability to make inferences increased with age and working memory was a significant predictor of this skill. Results are discussed in relation to cognitive and developmental models of comprehension.


Pike, M. M., Barnes, M. A., & Barron, R. W. (2010). The role of illustrations in children’s inferential comprehension. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 105(3), 243–255. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2009.10.006