The illustrations may provide a guide,
but the story and the language used to tell it,
are in the eye of the storyteller.
Wordless picture books have long been a staple of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and educators. As the name suggests, these are picture books or stories that contain only pictures. Some may feature environmental print, in which words appear within the picture, like the word "Milk" on the milk cartoon or "To: Sam" on a gift tag.
Wordless picture books provide young children and students the opportunity to access and engage in the story, without the burden of reading. Although, pictures often accompany written stories, highlighting major events within them, pictures can also provide added details or even an extension of the story.
When using picture books with students over the years, I've had a number of them say, "but I can't read the words." I often found myself replying to these comments with, "I'll read the words and you read the pictures" or "let's just read the pictures." Whether or not one can read the words shouldn't detract from the enjoyment a good story brings.
There's a sense of freedom
when you're not tied to the words.
As you move about the story, you quickly find
limitless opportunities for literary discoveries.
Countless benefits are associated with a good story. Stories contribute to our knowledge about the world around us, and while doing so, they help us understand and learn language. Stories help us think and talk about things that aren't in the here and now. They feed our imaginations. When we learn to read, we learn to formulate pictures in our heads of the story as it unfolds. While young children may not be learning to read, reading stories helps kids learn how to develop these mental pictures.
Finally, wordless picture books help kids learn the mechanics of stories. They learn that stories are comprised of a series of events using transition words ("first this happened," "then this," "next," etc.). They also learn vocabulary words only found in stories ("once upon a time," "the end," etc.).
Although kids may not be reading a story, they have the opportunity to practice telling the story, using the pictures as a guide. They practice ordering events while using emerging language skills independently. With wordless picture books, kids can tell us the story using their own words and sentences (compared to the back-and-forth style of conversation, which may unintentionally provide words and models guiding their verbal productions). So check out some of these great wordless picture books and discover a new way to "read" books.
What are your favorite wordless picture books?