Discourse comprehension often involves the construction of a mental model of a situation and its updating as the discourse progresses. Theory suggests that a picture which depicts the initial physical situation in a story could help young children construct a functional mental model which they might maintain as the story progresses, thereby supporting comprehension. This was tested with young children, 4 to 6 years of age. The ability of those who saw the picture to model the final story event was enhanced and, even though the picture did not depict the main character's goal directly, recall of the goal was increased. This could be explained in terms of the creation of a functional mental model and the increased opportunity that it provides for linking goal-directed events with the goal as the model is updated. Mental representation theory was found useful here for predicting how to support comprehension in ways which could translate readily into practice in the classroom. Some potential applications of the findings in teaching young children are described.