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Three experiments were conducted to investigate the effects of including illustrations in beginning reading materials. Experiment 1 compared reading materials consisting solely of simple prose passages with materials consisting of the same passages plus informative illustrations depicting the content of each passage. Reading proficiency improved more under the no illustrations condition. Experiment 2 compared the informative illustrations with uninformative illustrations. Reading proficiency improved more using uninformative illustrations. Experiment 3 compared uninformative illustrations with no illustrations and found no significant differences between conditions. These results were interpreted within a cognitive load theory framework. It was concluded that informative illustrations are redundant and so impose an extraneous working memory load that interferes with learning to read.