Seeing and knowing: Attention to illustrations during storybook reading and narrative comprehension in 2-year-olds

Tanya Kaefer, Ashley M. Pinkham, Susan B. Neuman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research (Evans & Saint-Aubin,) suggests systematic patterns in how young children visually attend to storybooks. However, these studies have not addressed whether visual attention is predictive of children's storybook comprehension. In the current study, we used eye-tracking methodology to examine two-year-olds' visual attention while being read an unfamiliar storybook. Immediately following reading, they completed a comprehension assessment. Children who visually attended to illustrations depicting key narrative events during the initial reading demonstrated stronger comprehension than children who focused on other areas. Importantly, visual attention to pertinent illustrations was also positively related to parental reports of vocabulary knowledge. Collectively, this supports a reciprocal model of early knowledge development: vocabulary knowledge facilitates visual attention, and visual attention to storybook illustrations facilitates subsequent learning. Highlights: The current study examines two-year-olds comprehension of storybooks and whether this comprehension is impacted by their visual attention to illustrations and extant vocabulary. This study uses eye-tracking methodology to examine the relationship between extant vocabulary, visual attention to illustration and comprehension in two-year-olds. This study found that two-year-olds visual attention to relevant illustration is predicted by their extant vocabulary and predicts comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2018
JournalInfant and Child Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • eye-tracking
  • narrative comprehension
  • shared-book reading
  • visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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