multi-modal mediated, schema building, multi-media readiing, illustrated texts, cognitive load, cognitive mapping, narratology, story comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, learning disability, low-level reader


The value of this research hinges on the idea that exchanging illustrations for descriptive text can provide appropriate schemas for students with reading difficulties and thereby improve their comprehension and vocabulary acquisition. The research in this dissertation is based on theories and earlier research in the fields of psychology, education, reading, and narratology. A review of these fields offers a variety of perspectives on the processes involved in reading and comprehension. These processes range from the physical systems involved in reading (e.g., early childhood development, eye movement) to the psychological systems, which include cognitive load theory as well as image and text processing models. This study compares two reading methods by analyzing students' vocabulary and comprehension gains. Both groups read the same text and completed the same pre- and post-tests. The control group read the text from the book which was text only. The experimental group read from a modified text on the computer screen. The text was modified by replacing some sentences with images designed to transmit the same information (e.g., descriptions of the setting, vocabulary items) in a graphic format. The images were in-line with the text, and designed to be read as part of the story, not as additional illustrations. Final analysis shows that the experimental format performed as well as the control format for most students. However, students who have learning disabilities, particularly language learners who have learning disabilities, did not make gains in the text only control format. These same students did show statistically significant gains with the experimental format, particularly the section of reading where the vocabulary words were explicitly presented in the images. Disparate, non-homogenous groupings of students reflect the actual teaching and learning circumstances in the school, as required by the school system. This situation thus represents the actual status quo situation faced by teachers in our school. We leave it to future researchers to work with more homogenous groups of students in order to attain clearer, stronger and more plaintively useful results.


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Graduation Date



Dombrowski, Paul


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program

Texts and Technology








Release Date

August 2010

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)