There's something intimidating about wordless picture books at first... When my first daughter was born, some family friends gave us a beautiful wordless picture book that I put away on the shelf, thinking, "no, I can't read this, I don't know what to do, it's too complicated." But wordless picture books can be so rich... even though it can feel like pressure at first, it's actually NO pressure, because you can do whatever you want with a wordless picture book, and you are free to let your child lead whatever way the story or pictures take them.
I had the great pleasure of speaking with Megan Lingo of Chickadee Lit last week. With a professional background as both an Educational Therapist and a reading teacher, and as the mother of three young children, Megan is a wealth of information when it comes to early literacy. We focused our conversation (which is featured in full on the corresponding podcast episode, Wordless Picture Books) on the reading of wordless picture books, the riches they can bring to families, and Megan's five wonderful tips (a veritable "wordless picture book tool kit") for getting started.
Since wordless picture books are simply a series of images, they can not only bring out your imagination when read, but also when we consider making them ourselves! Megan gave a few wonderful examples of some of her favorite existing books, and I've included two of mine below, as well. But I want to encourage you to also consider making your own! I invite you to download my DIY wordless picture book, "FLIGHT," which I created in honor of my toddler's love of planes and airports.
Here, in short form, is Megan's "wordless picture book tool kit," but I really encourage you to listen to the full episode (or at least read the transcript!) of our discussion. We had a great discussion, full of insights. So, let these be an inspiration to you as you read and create your wordless picture books at home!
- Take A Picture Walk
- Flip through the pages, look at what your little one notices and what they find interesting and important
- Get out of their way!
- Build engagement and interest before you start reading
- Think Aloud For Your Child
- Use "stem" questions to get started
- "When I see this, I wonder about..."
- "I wonder what's going to happen next..."
- Show them that you wonder and you have questions
- Don't be afraid to model confusion
- Use "stem" questions to get started
- Encourage Expressive Language
- Sit face to face when reading
- Use gestures and pointing, and when they do, talk about what they're interested on the page.
- Don't be afraid to make all the funny sounds in the book - get them associating the representation of an object and a sound in the environment
- As they get older, encourage them to name things, and get them to tell stories that have a beginning / middle / end
- Focus on "Inference"
- Making inferences: essentially, the ability to read between the lines and draw conclusions based on clues you see in the environment.
- Look at the characters' faces and try to figure out what they're thinking, what they're feeling, based on their expression and situation
- Extend the Experience
- You can never read it the same way twice! It is always new, every time.
- Incorporate or model written language with sticky notes!
- Write down or label their favorite parts of the page.
- For older kids, write dialogue the characters might say to each other - and even record it so they can listen to it on their own another time!
- Incorporate dramatic experiences, artistic, or tactile experiences associated with themes in your book
Download your FREE copy of "FLIGHT"
A wordless picture book from Strength In Words
I hope this, paired with my book, FLIGHT (which can be downloaded below!), will give you a starting point for both reading and creating your own wordless picture books.
- Collect series of images (7 - 20ish) around a common theme - a favorite place, a recent (or upcoming) experience, a collection of favorite or daily activities, etc. You might find them in magazines, through a web image search, or from your own printed photographs.
- Organize the images in sheet protectors or on laminated pages in a binder, or place them in a photo album.
- Get started by following some (or all!) of Megan's tips, sit back, and enjoy with your little one!
- Wordless picture books can be enjoyed by any age group.
- With a young infant, you'll clearly be doing all the talking, but your baby can enjoy hearing your voice and looking at the images.
- As your baby starts to use more non-verbal communicative means, such as gazing at something that interests her or pointing/signing/touching, take her cue and talk about what you think is interesting to her!
- Emergently verbal (and extremely verbal!) toddlers and older children can help you tell the story. Feel free to employ communication strategies such as the "cloze procedure" to further engage and tempt your little one to communicate.