Two sets of equivalent stories and main ideas alternatives were developed in a series of preliminary studies with groups of undergraduates. One set was verbal; the other set was pictorial. A developmental study was completed with a group of second, fifth, and eighth graders, in which the children ranked the alternative main idea statements for each of the stories in one of the modalities. As expected, there was improvement with increasing age in children's ability to select the best ("adult consensus" and theoretically derived) main idea alternatives and a pattern of increased differentiation in judging the quality of the different alternatives. Most important, there was little difference in the children's responses to main idea alternatives, based on whether their task was in the verbal or pictorial format.