The purpose of this post is two-fold: (1) to advise parents to get their hands on some wordless picture books as part of their summer reading with their kids, and (2) to participate in teachers Mandy (Enjoy and Embrace Learning) and Cathy’s (Reflect & Refline) 5th annual “Picture Book 10 for 10” event. This event asks educators, teachers, media specialists, parents, and picture book lovers to compile and post (on August 10) their own list of top 10 picture books that “you cannot live without for whatever reason”. Each of these posts are then compiled into a virtual picture book resource on Jog the Web. I am excited to be participating in this for the 2nd time!
Wordless picture books hold a very special place in my heart, partly because they were the focus of much of my research and publications back when I was teaching. And partly because my own kids have enjoyed them so greatly. They are typically thought of as for preschoolers and kids who can’t yet read, and I don’t believe they receive nearly the attention they deserve by teachers or parents. Good wordless picture books can be entertaining and valuable for a much wider range of kids, emerging and proficient readers, and English and limited-English speakers! They are fun to read, and they can be used to nurture storytelling skills, build the comprehension skills that are needed for reading comprehension, and nurture narrative writing skills.
It’s difficult for me to provide a list of only 10 favorite wordless picture books — so this is my best attempt for now. The titles that I included on this list are my favorites specifically for nurturing the narrative skills required for telling, reading, and writing good stories. That means that I selected only wordless books that have an actual narrative structure with a problem and solution — not just a sequence of events (which define many beautiful wordless picture books but won’t help to build the narrative skills needed for story comprehension). The books I chose also show clear enough sequences that allow preschool and elementary-aged kids to create a coherent storyline. And, they all have rich content with important themes/messages that can inspire some good discussion.
Here is my list of favorite wordless picture books:
1 .A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog (Mercer Mayer). This is the first book in a fabulous set of 6.
2.Bluebird (Bob Staake)
3. Flood (Alvaro Villa)
5. Hank Finds an Egg (Rebecca Dudley)
6.Here I Am (Patti Kim)
8.Pancakes for Breakfast (Tomie DePaola)
10.The Flower Man (Mark Ludy)
12.Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad (Henry Cole)
OK, I couldn’t eliminate any of these so I guess I have 12. There are so many ways for parents and teachers to use these with their kids to support literacy development, which I plan to address in depth in my blog at a later date. For now, here are a few quick general ways to use wordless picture books:
– Model for your kids how to “read” the story across the pages, even though there are no words (connecting the pages with story language)
– Encourage your kids to “read” the story aloud. For younger kids, help them to create a coherent, connected story rather than simply labeling or describing individual pages.
– Ask your kids questions as you “read” the books, such as “What is the problem in this story?”; “What do you predict will happen next?”; and “How do you think the character is feeling right now?” — the same questions that you would ask while reading aloud a book with text.
– After reading, elicit a retelling of the story: “Can you tell me the story in your own words, from beginning to end?”
– Encourage kids to actually write their own words for the story — to write the text that goes with the pictures. They can dictate for a parent or teacher, or they can write the words themselves. Words can be written on sentence strips that are gently taped to each page, or they can be written directly on a photocopied version of the book.
“Reading” and comprehending wordless picture books actually requires many of the same skills that are required for comprehending stories with words. They demand good thinking. And kids can feel a sense of ownership when they are in charge of constructing the specific text to go with the pictures (choosing words, dialogue, etc). As far as I’m concerned, they should be a given in all home and classroom libraries!