Reading with pictures in first and second language

Yen Na Cherry YUM, Pui Lun Alan TAI, Neil COHN

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Comics and picture books are often used as reading materials for students with weaker reading ability, such as second language learners, because the addition of visual information is thought to confer advantages in reading comprehension and information recall relative to plain texts. The amount of images and whether they form a connected narrative may influence how comprehension occurs. Additionally, the process of integrating pictorial information with textual information may interact with language status, i.e. first language (L1) or second language (L2). This study investigated the cognitive processes underlying the reading comprehension of short passages accompanied by no picture, disconnected pictures, or connected pictures by adult bilingual Chinese-English readers. Eighty-seven participants were randomly assigned to read three passages in either Chinese or English. The self-paced reading time of each page and short answer comprehension questions after each reading were measured. Data analyses were separately conducted for the two groups using mixed-effects modelling. For L1 reading, results showed that the total reading times for passages in different conditions were the same. For texts accompanied by continuous images, dwell time on texts was significantly shorter than for texts with disconnected or no images. For adults reading in L1 Chinese, there was no difference in accuracy or response time to comprehension questions across the three conditions. Participants reading in L2 English had equal dwell time on texts across conditions, but total reading time increased for texts with accompanying pictures. The accuracy for English texts’ reading comprehension questions was higher for texts with continuous pictures compared to texts with disconnected or no pictures, but response time did not differ. Pictorial information influenced reading in bilingual Chinese-English individuals, but the patterns were clearly different in L1 vs L2 reading. Connected pictures facilitated comprehension efficiency in L1 reading and improved comprehension in L2 reading. The facilitation effect was present in both groups only when pictures appeared in a continuous narrative, and were weaker when the images appeared only occasionally. Results from this study shed light on how texts and non-linguistic visual information are read and understood in bilingual readers, and suggest strategic inclusion of images in the pedagogy of both first and second language learning. Copyright © 2018 ICPEAL 17 - CLDC 9.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


Yum, Y. N., Tai, P. L., & Cohn, N. (2018, October). Reading with pictures in first and second language. Paper presented at The 17th International Conference on the Processing of East Asian Languages and the 9th Conference on Language, Discourse, and Cognition (ICPEAL 17 – CLDC 9), National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan.


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