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The Power of Wordless Picture Books

| Community Partners, Reading Aloud

Thank you to Lindsay Varnum, Youth Services Librarian at The Orono Public Library in Orono, ME for this celebration of wordless picture books.

To spice up my storytimes, I occasionally read wordless picture books with the children.  I am constantly amazed by what they notice and contribute to the conversation.  They often pick up on things I miss and I love how they help me understand the story better!

Whether it’s the fantastical world found in David Wiesner’s Tuesday or the beautifully detailed images of the natural world found in Kim Jihyun’s The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky, illustrations in wordless picture books capture imaginations and provide readers a chance to be creative as they become the narrator of the story. It is hard not to be engrossed in the story of these picture books!   

However, it wasn’t until recently that I discovered how enriching these types of books can be for both children and adults.  If you are looking for a great way to connect with a child in your life while also building literacy skills, I invite you to take a look (or another look) at wordless picture books.  

Wordless Picture Books Help Build Skills

Communication Skills

These picture books show us that words are not the only form of communication.  When children read these picture books, they build visual literacy by drawing meaning from the images on the page. You can help build these skills by asking simple questions such as ‘What else?’ or ‘What makes you say that?’  

Socio-Emotional Skills

My personal favorite is to ask how the characters are feeling and how they know.  It encourages them to study facial expressions and other body language cues of the characters. Learning to identify emotions and explain why someone feels that way is an important skill for children to learn. 

Talking with children about character emotions not only helps them understand the plot, but also helps them recognize emotions in themselves and people they interact with. 

Helps Children Understand the Structure of a Story

In addition to visual literacy, readers of wordless picture books are learning about story structure.  As kids look at the sequence of events found in the illustrations, they will likely craft a story with a beginning, middle, and end. 

You can also encourage children to describe where the story takes place.  These are all key building blocks children can start developing even before they are able to read books with words. 

Vocabulary Building

Reading these books with a parent, sibling, or grandparent also creates the opportunity for vocabulary development as they are introduced to new words to describe what they are seeing.

I love a chance to help children find a love for reading and wordless picture books are a unique tool in this endeavor. Children love looking at the illustrations and letting their imaginations run wild, which is a great way for children to have an enjoyable experience with a book every time.  They are in charge and don’t need to rely on an adult to read the story to them. 

Also, for a child struggling with language or one who processes their world through images rather than words, these books are an opportunity for them to experience the joys of literature without any barriers.

My goal is to help children fall in love with books and exploring picture books with them is one way I can do this!

More Wordless Picture Books

24 Must Have Wordless Picture Books for Kids of All Ages (growingbookbybook.com)

Our Favorite Wordless Picture Books | Reading Rockets