A picture is worth a thousand words
Today an article crossed my desk which was ultimately concerning. I didn’t like it. Partly it was written because of that feeling. But moreover, it seems to add credibility to the research completed by Dr. Protheroe which seemed to suggest that pictures in books hindered the ability for students to learn to read, rather than enhanced. When this research was announced, I immediately made a post (Picture Books and Literacy Learning) to express my opinion on it. I encourage you to visit it and have a read.
The article in question is Uncomfortable, Unthinkable Research Findings by Jessica Craig, and is written in response to an article in Education Review. Craig is one of the education consultants at Accent Learning, one of the former Ministry appointed professional development providers in the Wellington area before they cut funding.
What is most concerning is that Accent is still widely regarded as a solid education learning provider for teachers. And yet Craig, along with others (I suspect), has failed to miss the flaw in the research carried out. Her main question seems to be “why isn’t more being made of this research!?”. Basically, why aren’t we telling new beginning teachers to take twink to the Ready to Read books in every school!? (Once again;cause for concern – Accent Learning operates out of Victoria University’s Karori Campus; which is, surprise surprise, where they train teachers!)
Now I’m no researcher, but I have done my time in many a math and statistics class through high school, and I know how important sample size is.
The sample size for this research is – wait for it… 48.
Yes. 48. Not even 50.
To give you an idea of what 48 equates to. It is two average sized classrooms of 7-9 year olds.
Two classrooms. Probably from one school.
If we based every bit of research on that, we’d probably find all sorts of anomalies we’d then prioritise and force upon the entire nation! Consider the fact that these 48 students have probably had the same teachers as each other from the age of five. They probably have similar home lives, and might be completely different from a school down the road, let alone at the other end of the country. The fact is, there is not enough evidence within two classrooms of students to even remotely suggest anything; especially a claim that pictures in books hinder students reading progress.
Further more, the research is based on only four texts. Two with pictures, two without. Probably only one fiction and one non-fiction for pictures and without pictures. Once again, hardly a comprehensive range of texts to base one’s research on. Who is to say that those texts were appropriate, relevant, needed pictures, had appropriate pictures, or that the questions were understood or allowed for child interpretation?
In addition to this; I refer to a point I made in my previous article about this topic. I’d hesitate to say; but I’d say it’d be pretty accurate; that of the people that can read (of which you are one!), that you learned to read using books with pictures. So they can’t be that bad, as you, and generations before and after you have also learned to read using pictures. I would also suggest that those people that can’t read, that pictures in the books has little to do with the reason why they can’t read.
Unlike Jessica Craig, I can completely understand why there has been no debate over this research. Its because the majority of us have worked out it’s a waste of time, resourcing, and energy. Quite frankly; it’s bogus. Until there is substantial evidence to the contrary, I shall remain in favour of the wonderful illustrations that grace the pages of picture books and sparks the imagination and inspiration of the younger generations as they explore the world of words and stories.