Reading: Books with busy pictures 'make it harder for kids to focus and ...

Illustrating children's books with too many detailed, non-essential pictures makes it 'harder for kids to focus and absorb knowledge', a study has demonstrated.

Colourful pictures intended to motivate young readers may achieve the exact opposite by drawing attention away from the story text, US researchers warned.

Although reading is considered a 'gateway for learning', around 20 per cent of children in the UK do not meet the minimum level of literacy proficiency.

Children’s books typically include eye-catching illustrations to help readers visualise the characters and setting of the story.

However, eye-tracking studies found that too many pictures can prove distracting. 

Illustrating children's books with too many detailed, non-essential pictures makes it 'harder for kids to focus and absorb knowledge', a study has demonstrated. Pictured, a picture book

Illustrating children's books with too many detailed, non-essential pictures makes it 'harder for kids to focus and absorb knowledge', a study has demonstrated. Pictured, a picture book

Colourful pictures intended to motivate young readers may achieved the exact opposite by drawing attention away from the story text, US researchers warned. Pictured, an example of a children's reading book, with text highlighted in blue, essential images in green and distracting, non-essential illustrations highlighted in red

Colourful pictures intended to motivate young readers may achieved the exact opposite by drawing attention away from the story text, US researchers warned. Pictured, an example of a children's reading book, with text highlighted in blue, essential images in green and distracting, non-essential illustrations highlighted in red

'Learning to read is hard work for many kids,' said paper author and psychologist Anna Fisher of the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

'Extraneous images may draw the reader's eyes away from the text and disrupt the focus necessary to understand the story.'

In their study, Dr Fisher and colleagues gave a group of adults a book designed for children's reading practice and asked them to identify which pictures within were entertaining but not essential to understand the story.

These extraneous pictures were then removed from the second half of the book before the work was given to 60 US first- and second-grade students — that is, those aged between 6 and 8 — to read.

A portable eye-tracker was used to monitor the number of times each student shifted their gaze away from the text to images across the page.

The team found that children shifted their gaze less when reading the streamlined half of the book — and achieved higher comprehension scores.

'During these primary school years, children are in a transition period in

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