What are wordless books?

Quite simply, wordless books are picture books without words. What, you may be thinking, is the value in reading a wordless book?

First, think about what it means to read. Reading is gaining meaning from words and pictures. But what if there are no words? We have to rely on the pictures!

Children have no problem with this. They naturally look to the pictures in books to tell the story. But for many adults, the words serve as the “guide.” We know what to say when the words are printed on the page. So, a book filled with pictures – but no words – can be intimidating. Looked at another way, wordless books can also be very freeing!

You or your child can…

  • decide what to name the characters
  • choose which words to say
  • invent the storyline
  • create the dialogue

To involve both of you, you might each choose to “be” a character from the story. When your character shows up on a page, you create the dialogue! Your character can “talk to” your child’s character as each of you tells the words of the story.

Your child may tell the story differently than you, which will make repeated readings of these books endlessly entertaining for both of you!

What should I do?

You should tell the story through the pictures.

But how do I tell the story?

  • Describe.
    Move beyond simply naming the pictures. Talk about the details you notice. Explain what you see happening in the picture.
  • Point.
    When you connect the words you say to an image, your child’s understanding of new vocabulary words grows. You will probably be surprised at just how much talking you will do when you read a wordless book with your little one.
  • Ask questions. Wonder aloud.
    Why do you think…? What if…?
  • Use storybook language.
    Connect the events as you tell the story. Use linking words such as: next, then, later, etc. Doing so will show your child how stories contain a sequence of events that include a beginning, middle and end.

Wordless books are a perfect way to involve children of various ages and reading abilities in the storytelling process. Regardless of literacy level, the reader will naturally use words that are part of her conversational vocabulary. Children and adults alike can enjoy the benefits of wordless books.