The other day a friend looked at a gorgeous book we have in our son’s book collection and said ‘I don’t like books like this, there’s no story to read to my daughter’. I was so surprised! As a teacher, I have always enjoyed using books with no words. Apart from the fact that the illustrations are often stunning and can be enjoyable to share in themselves, there are so many benefits to reading picture books of this genre. Wordless picture books are particularly wonderful because they can be used with children of all ages.
Share these books with your baby. Point to the pictures and talk about what you can see in them. Some board books and fabric books don’t have words, but this doesn’t mean there can’t be some great opportunities for sharing of, learning from and loving these books.
Young children who cannot yet read a story themselves can still ‘read’ a wordless picture book to themselves, a friend or a family member. There is no right or wrong when it comes to these stories, so even pre-readers can feel success in reading these books. What better way to engage a child with books! Talk about the pictures with your child and ask your child questions about them. Encourage him or her to make up their own story from the pictures. Help ignite your child’s imagination. Support them to make up names for the characters. You might use names of family and friends, or make up creative names. Talk about where the characters are on each page and what they are doing. This doesn’t have to be a one-on-one experience, although of course it can be. You might sit with the whole family and make up a story together.
As your child begins to let their imagination run wild with ideas, encourage them to make up a story with a clear beginning, middle and end. This is an essential skill for writing narrative stories in the primary school years. Ask ‘What is happening at the beginning of the story?’ ‘What is happening next?’ ‘What happened at the end?’ As your child becomes more proficient at this, encourage them to tell stories that make sense as a whole.
Many wordless picture books do have a few words, mostly onomatopaeia, such as ‘buzz buzz’, ‘ring ring’ or ‘zzzzzz’. Use these prompts for further storytelling. You might say ‘What is the dog saying? Why would he be barking?’ Or ‘Look! The telephone is ringing! I wonder who it could be!’
Wordless picture books are a wonderful way to encourage children to make inferences. During the primary school years, when it comes to comprehension, inferential skills are often the most difficult for children to grasp. These skills are essential for secondary school and beyond. Books with no words require children to make many inferences about the story. Through discussion and questioning of these stories, you are setting your child up for success in this area in the future.
Does your child enjoy writing? Why not provide your child with a wordless picture book and have them write the story? Or, if your child is a reluctant writer but has a wordless picture book they enjoy, this might be a great way to engage them in writing.
The main benefit from interacting with wordless picture books, is the development of a variety of deeper level thinking skills. There is no passive listening, only active participation.
Are you interested in using wordless picture books with your child but don’t have any at home? Here is a list of a few lovely ones which you can find in stores, online or at your local library.
- ‘Leaf’ by Stephen Michael King
- ‘Archie’ by Domenica More Gordon
- ‘Rosie’s Walk’ by Pat Hutchins
- ‘Window’, ‘Belonging’ and ‘Mirror’, all by Jeannie Baker
- ‘The Arrival’ by Shaun Tan
- ‘Welcome to the Zoo’ by Alison Jay
- ‘The Lion and the Mouse’ by Jerry Pinkney
- ‘The Snowman’ by Raymond Briggs