“Wordless picture books allow readers to construct diverse interpretations.”
When you think of the word ‘book’ you automatically imagine words, sentences and paragraphs. Indeed many books are filled with words, from simple children’s fairytales all the way to classics by William Shakespeare and Alexandre Dumas.
But what about wordless books? You don’t tend to hear about those so much! But they are a real thing that – as the name suggests – have no world to ‘read’! That means it can be enjoyed independently by children of all ages, no matter what their reading level is!
Wordless books allow each and every child to experience a story in a completely unique way. They can use the pictures to interpret the story however they want, and they can let their imaginations run wild in order to create their own narrative for the story. The story that they craft with will probably be far more imaginative than anything us adults – or even the book’s author – could have come up with!
The author might have their own story in mind when creating the book, but to a child that book is a black slate, filled with exciting images that will inspire them and help shape their tale. And they can express this story however they like.
They might be too young to write and want to tell the story out loud. This will help them with their speech development, pronunciations, reasoning skills and maybe even acting skills! Through this fun activity they will learn to structure and sequence their story. Their vocabulary will become richer and their understanding of the world around them will become greater.
When they are a little older they can build on these skills and learn how to write. Some children may even prefer to tell their story by writing it down. You see, writing helps them develop many different skills from spelling, to sentence structure, to story composition. All valuable skills for children to learn!
Whichever way they choose to tell their story is fine! There are no rules when it comes to wordless books! You can question them as they go, encourage them to dig deeper and be more imaginative. Develop their storytelling! They’ll learn to label objects in the pictures, assign appropriate sounds and gestures to those objects, and before long the simple story that they created to accompany the pictures in the wordless book will evolve and expand and become something creative, exciting and maybe even bigger than the wordless book itself!
Just like a child’s muscles, their imagination needs to be stretched, exercised and used as often as possible. Using wordless books and learning to dream is an exciting time in their development – one where creativity and imagination should be kindled and encouraged!
But don’t fall into the trap of thinking wordless books are just for preschool children! Oh no, they can be enjoyed by children of all ages! They might help stimulate an older child’s brain in a way that chapter books might not. No matter how old and skilled you get it always pays off to be able to sit down with a wordless book and let your mind wander. So tell a story – one as wild and crazy as you can possibly make it!
“All children can enjoy wordless picture books and should be exposed to them whether or not they can read words proficiently.”
In order to make meaning in transaction with these visual narratives, we suggest five things that young readers of wordless picture books must learn to do:
- Give voice to the illustrations by participating in the story sequence
- Interpret characters’ thoughts, feelings, and emotions without textual support for confirming these ideas
- Tolerate ambiguity and accept that not everything may be answered or understood
- Recognize that there are a range of reading paths to explore through the illustrations
- Elaborate on hypotheses about what is happening in the narrative sequence
Providing time for children to immerse themselves in a variety of wordless picture books allows them to enjoy the beautifull illustrations, explore the narrative possibilities these books offer, become comfortable with the absence of written text, and develop understandings of how these books work.