Can books without words truly teach children how to read? Yes, they definitely can and are some of the most powerful books to read with young children.
Wordless picture books take a bit more effort, but are well worth it. They teach important early literacy skills such as literacy, vocabulary, comprehension and story structure, which are all critical elements of early literacy development and help children learn how to read.
The beauty of wordless pictures books is that there are endless ways to tell a story, which not only stimulates the imagination, but makes them accessible to a wide range of readers.
Here’s a few ideas for reading wordless picture books:
Take a Picture Walk (Before Reading)
Wordless picture books have detailed and gorgeous illustrations that illuminate a page. Before reading the book, take time to look through each page with your child. Ask questions, point out important details. Analyze and discuss expressions on characters faces and make connections to the setting.
Narrate the Story to Your Child
For the first reading of a wordless book, narrate the story for your child. Add silly voices for the characters, and point out key details. Act things out as you read, make connections to your child’s life and just have fun. As you’re reading, also make sure to point to each page to reinforce the concept of reading from left to right and top to bottom.
Have Your Child Narrate
It’s important children have an opportunity to narrate their version of the story. Slow down and go at your child’s pace, while they narrate. Make it a conversation that flows between parent and child, as they use their imagination to narrate. One of the most beautiful parts of wordless picture books, is that each time a book is read the story is always a bit different!
Wordless books are a great opportunity to develop language acquisition and vocabulary skills for young children. Having children point to objects in the illustrations and explain their story plot, will naturally reinforce vocabulary. Here’s a simple example to teach vocabulary in wordless books:
- Let’s look at the pictures on this page. Can we use the word ……… in a sentence to describe the picture?
As children narrate their own stories, they are practicing storytelling skills, as well as developing their understanding of story structure ( beginning, middle, end). These skills are eventually easily translated to written storytelling skills in elementary school when children are asked to create their own imaginative stories.
To develop inquiry-based thinking skills, ask questions as you read. Asking questions helps children make connections and deepen their understanding of story structure and character emotions. Here’s a few examples:
- What do you think the is the character(s) feeling?
- Why do you think the character(s) thinking?
- Why do you think the character(s)……..?
- Where does the story take place? Have you been to a similar place?
- What do you see happening in this picture? Can you tell me more about it?
- What do you think will happen next? Why?
- What would you like to happen next?
Favorite Wordless Picture Books
Float by Daniel Miyares
A poignant story about a little boy and a newspaper boat that set out on a rainy day adventure. It’s a story that beautifully captures the essence of simple, but meaningful childhood moments, as well perseverance when things don’t go as planned.
A Caldecott Medal book that is truly deserving of such an honorable award. Mr. Wuffles is a cat that doesn’t care about playing with his toys, but loves to play with a spaceship. Little does he know, that inside the spaceship the aliens are not ready for this wild ride!
A sweet story about a little boy who finds a yellow tape measure and abandons his electronics. His tape measure takes him on a whirlwind adventure, showing us that simplicity often brings out the best of our imagination.
This story follows the adventure of two shy friends that meet at a crowded city pool. When the two friends dive into the pool, they are able to wade through the crowd and into their own adventure of magical sea creatures. It’s a fun book about friendship and the power of imagination.
A classic tale with a twist on Frosty the Snowman. It’s a story that highlights every kid’s wish for their snowman come to life and spend the day with them.
Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
When a wolf and a little girl both get lost in a snowstorm, they become friends and show the meaning of compassion and overcoming differences. This book is also a 2018 Caldecott Medal award winner.
This book uses a flashlight to illuminate dark and light images to creatively tell a story about what happens outside during the day and night. Children will want to embark on their own flashlight adventure after reading this book!
Once Upon a Snowstorm by Richard Johnson
A heartwarming story of a little boy and a father who are separated during a winter storm. With a little help from animal friends, the little boy is reunited with his father.
This is another amazing book by the talented JiHyeon. When a little boy finds a key, he opens a door to a magical land of forest creatures. As he explores this new land, his confidence grows as he makes new friends.
What are some of your favorite wordless picture books? Tell me about it below in the comments and as always please follow along on Instagram!
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