“What’s the point of a book with no words?”

Can a wordless picture book really build your child’s vocabulary? Yes! Plus they can get kids excited about writing. Find out how.

Wordless picture books are just that — wordless. No words. Nada. The reader uses only the book’s illustrations to interpret the story.

In the past, I avoided wordless picture books like the plague. That was when my boys were young and before I became a teacher.

I’d pull one from the library shelf, flip through its pages, and think, “What’s the point of a book with no words?”

But then I learned about the benefits.

For instance, a study from Utah State University found that mothers use more advanced language when “reading” wordless picture books with their kids than when reading books with words.

How could that be? How can a wordless picture book build your child’s vocabulary?

Here’s an example of a conversation you might have while flipping through a picture book with your child:

Your child: “That boy is looking at that thing in his hand with that thing.”

You: “Yes. He’s peering at a small sea creature through a magnifying glass. Does it look like a crustacean?”

Wordless picture books can also sharpen your child’s critical thinking skills and deepen comprehension. This can happen quite naturally.

In the absence of words, you and your child will be compelled to ask questions. You’ll make inferences. You’ll predict what will happen next. Reading the characters’ facial expressions and body language are also essential for gaining meaning. They’re important social skills, too.

But that’s not all. Wordless picture books can get your child excited about writing.

For instance, here’s a great strategy that could motivate even the most reluctant writer.

After “reading” each page, ask your child to record thoughts, observations, and even invented dialogue on sticky notes. Then have your child attach those sticky notes to the corresponding pages.

After your child has stickied up the entire book, remove those sticky notes and line them up in sequential order. Organize the sticky notes by separating them into a clear beginning, middle, and end of the story.

Now your child has the structure and multiple prompts to write a complete story based on that wordless picture book.

These days, I see wordless picture books through a teacher’s eyes. I consider them one of the most effective tools for reaching students of all ages and abilities.

In fact, I have a dozen wordless picture books piled high on my kitchen table. I’ll be using these gems to develop a Wordless Picture Book Unit for my inclusion classroom.

Because they’re wordless, everyone gets the chance to excel — even the kids who struggle most.

Looking for some good wordless picture books to try with your child? Here are some of my favorites:

  • Wave, by Suzy Lee

  • The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney

  • Flotsam, by David Wiesner (The example above about the crustacean and the magnifying glass is from this book.)

  • Draw! by Raúl Colón

  • Pancakes for Breakfast, by Tomie de Paola

  • Float, by Daniel Miyares


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