Multimodal reading materials, which combine text, audio and pictures, are frequently used in English language teaching to support reading development and improve reading comprehension. However, our understanding of the effectiveness of these methods mainly comes from studies using post-reading tests that do not indicate how learners engage with these different sources of information nor how online processing is related to levels of comprehension. This study used eye-tracking to investigate children and adult second language (L2) learners’ processing of the different input sources in two multimodal reading conditions (i.e. reading and reading-while-listening an illustrated text).

Results of the study showed that L2 learners spend more time reading the text than processing the images, irrespective of the reading mode. The presence of auditory input in reading-while-listening conditions allows learners to spend more time processing the images, but the processing differences observed between the two conditions do not seem to affect reading comprehension.

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