Date of Award

Summer 8-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Curriculum & Instruction


Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Barnitz, John

Second Advisor

Austin, Patricia

Third Advisor

Bedford, April

Fourth Advisor

Ioup, Georgette

Fifth Advisor

Thoreson, Amy Claire


This study explores storybook illustrations in learning word meanings among English learners in a university intensive language program. The impact of children’s literature on the comprehension and vocabulary development of second language children is well-documented. However, the use of the literature with adults still needs to be researched. Therefore, a mixed-method study was designed (1) to investigate whether readers who read an authentic illustrated story differed from those who read the same story without illustrations; and (2) to learn more about the readers’ process of learning words from storybook illustrations. Results suggest that illustrations play an important role in both comprehending the text and learning individual words, however issues related to the accessibility of the text and readers’ ability to use context should also be taken into consideration. The findings support prior research that the benefits of learning from context take time to become robust. The study suggests that illustrated storybooks provide a rich context for adults to infer word meanings and recommends children’s literature as an alternative source of reading in programs serving adult English learners.


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