Wordless picture books encourage language development. Below, I’ve complied previously blogs and added more suggestions. Wordless picture books and funny pictures are excellent tools to address vocabulary, word finding, grammar, articulation, attention and pre-reading skills. Goals to improve each of these naturally fall into place when “reading” wordless picture books and describing funny pictures. Even better, the variety of wordless picture books and funny pictures available allows for activities to remain fun and fresh. You can use wordless picture books and funny pictures for…
Sometimes a child can say a sound (e.g., /s/) in sentences, but needs extra practice in conversation. Wordless books and funny pictures can bridge the gap between sentence level and conversation.
Take turns with your child describing the pictures in the wordless books. If your child leaves out important information when describing scenes in books or pictures, you can ask an open ended question (e.g., “Hmmm – What’s happening over here?”). If he can’t describe what’s happening, describe it for him. Perhaps your description will improve his awareness to be more specific next time.
Pre-Reading With Wordless Picture Books
When appropriate, before turning the page, excitedly ask “What’s going to happen next?” When given the opportunity to make a prediction (a pre-reading skill), children combine verbal and critical thinking skills.
With Funny Pictures
Describing funny pictures is entertaining! An instant smile appears when a child is shown a picture of the Statue of Liberty holding an ice cream sundae. This task allows your child to link visual and cognitive skills, which is crucial for pre-reading. Funny pictures need to be carefully examined, just as words need to be looked at closely to notice blends. What’s more, when a child focuses and attends to a funny picture and can explain why it is crazy a polar bear is on the beach, he is using attention and reasoning skills and making inferences.
A child may better appreciate the feelings of others if he can interpret and describe feelings. When the opportunity presents itself, ask your child how a main character feels. You may need to be more specific: “How does Jack the dog feel after his family left him without breakfast?” Provide explanations as necessary.
Looking for some wordless picture books and funny pictures?
The “Jack” books by Pat Schories are a great introduction to wordless picture books. While the Jack books do not need to be read in any particular order, the following order works nicely:
Breakfast for Jack
Jack Wants a Snack
Jack and the Missing Piece
Jack and the Night Visitors
When Jack Goes Out
Children are interested in the characters in Jack’s life. Searching the detailed pictures for surprises is motivating, facilitates attention and assists in developing visual scanning skills.
The Frog Series by Mercer Mayer (and sometimes Marianna Mayer as well) is an appropriate series to try next. Again, the books don’t need to be read in any particular order, but given the language skills required within each book, this order may be preferable:
Frog, Where Are You?
A Boy, A Dog and A Frog
One Frog Too Many
A Boy, A Dog, A Frog and A Friend
Frog on His Own
Frog Goes To Dinner
I was first introduced to The Frog Series in my graduate school clinic. School-age children described scenes in a Frog book chosen for them during an evaluation so we could obtain a narrative sample.
More Favorite Wordless Picture Books
Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins
Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola
Carl Goes Shopping by Alexandra Day
Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
Hug by Jez Alborough
Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins
Chalk by Bill Thomson
Window by Jeannie Baker (best for older children, purchase a used copy)
No, David! by David Shannon (My favorite, essentially wordless book, also a Caldecott*)
You can also use picture books with text, as long as the pictures are detailed. This is generally more difficult than using wordless picture books, but if you try, it will work best with *Caldecott Medal / Honor Books. One of the criteria for the Caldecott Award is that a child can interpret the story directly from the pictures. A child doesn’t need to know how to read the text, in fact, cover text if your child can read, so he can freely choose his own words.
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willem
Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems
Flotsam (This is also a wordless picture book) by David Wiesner (Tuesday and Sector 7 are good for school age children)
The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster, Illustrated by Chris Raschka
When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang
The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey
Rumpelstiltskin by Paul Zelinsky
King Bidgood’s In the Bathtub by Don and Audrey Wood
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
One Fine Day by Nonny Hogrogian
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Umbrella by Taro Yashima A Tree Is Nice by Marc Simont
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
The pictures in books by Leo Lionni and Ezra Jack Keats also allow for great descriptions.
I often provide What’s Wrong coloring books to children I work with so they can discuss one page a day with a parent as part of their homework. I often leave the wordless picture book that we read together in therapy for homework as well. What’s Wrong by Anna Pomaska is good to start with. Then try What’s Wrong with this Picture? also by Pomaska.
Try this incredible set of silly photographs. Wacky Wednesday by Dr. Seuss is fun to read together. Practicing describing a worksheet or two each day from Super Duper’s 150 “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” Scenes can also help carryover speech and language skills.
Making photo books with your kids is a fabulous way to help increase their language skills. It matters not if you are a mom simply looking for creative ways to provide your toddler with a language-rich environment or a dad looking for ways to help your kindergartener learn to tell stories– photo books are a flexible tool than can be used in a huge variety of ways.
How to use picture books? The general idea goes a little something like this:
Take pictures during a fun event such as a trip to the zoo or the beach,
Capture key moments in the pictures,
Print the pictures that highlight the key moments from the event,
Spend a few afternoons gluing the pictures onto construction paper, letting your children help cut, glue and color around the pictures; if your child is old enough, help him to write captions for the pictures, and
Laminate the pages and have them bound into a book that can be read over and over.
One you’ve done this, you’re all set up to use the books to help increase language. Kids love these books because they are based in experiences that they had; this makes the books both meaningful and fun. And children usually want to read the books over and over again– as annoying as this can be, it makes picture books the perfect vehicle for developing language.
With toddlers, you can use the pictures to build on language. Most toddlers love to start looking at pictures of themselves around 12-24 months, right when they are starting to rapidly increase their vocabulary and move from one-word phrases to two-word phrases. Photo books create excellent opportunities for using parallel talk, description, and expansion to help children develop new vocabulary and help them make the jump from one to two words.
Check out this video. I use expansion with my daughter, who is looking at a picture of herself riding a toy motorcycle with her brother, James. First, I wait for her to say something (“ride!”). Then I build on her words by putting them into short phrases, two different times. As a result, she comes back with a two-word phrase of her own (“James riding”)! No, it doesn’t always work this quickly….I’ve been using parallel talk, description and expansion with her for the past year and it’s only really starting to pay off now.
Toddlers aren’t the only ones who benefit from photo books, though. Using these books with preschoolers and early elementary age children can be great way to work on a whole variety of language-related skills. You can:
Work on sequencing by having your child lay out the pictures in the right order as you make the book,
Work on pre-writing and writing skills by having your child trace words you write or write his own words and sentences as you make the book,
Work on vocabulary by defining new words and integrating those words into the story and by using time words such as first, next, then and finally,
Work on language by using indirect correction, in which you correct errors in your child’s grammar by restating what he said, correctly and conversationally (e.g. Your child: “I runned really fast!” You: “You did. You ran so fast!”), and
Work on memory by having your child practice telling the story with and without the picture book in front of him.
Finally, photo books are a fantastic way to work on narrative (story) development. Developing an understanding of narrative structure (the typical flow of stories) is essential to being able to engage in conversations, tell others about things that have happened, and understand academic texts later in the elementary years. Enhancing narrative development is an asset for any child; I work on it with my son, often. It’s also a skill that can be very hard for children with language delays and specific diagnoses such as autism, so working on it with these children is essential. Using photo books to visually show stories in which children actually participated helps make narrative structure more concrete and easier to understand. At first, you can use photo books to help your child understand that the story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Later, during the early elementary age years, you can help your child form a story that has the following elements:
Setting (“We were at the zoo”)
Goal (“We wanted to see the animals,”)
Problem (“But Sally was scared of the lion.”)
Feelings (“I was so mad, because I wanted to see the lion.”)
Attempt to solve the problem (“So we went to see the owls instead. Then Sally was ready to see the lion. Mom just covered her eyes.”)
Conclusion (“After that, we had a really fun day.”)
It doesn’t have to be perfect, of course. Stories are messy, just like life. They won’t fit perfectly into those elements, nor should they. But telling stories in a way that wraps loosely around those story elements, over and over and over again, will help your child begin to internalize the flow of stories.
There is so much to do with picture books that the possibilities seem endless. What’s more, at the end of the day, you also have a book full of memories that your children will cherish for years to come. And that’s just priceless.
Becca Jarzynski, M.S., CCC-SLP is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in Wisconsin. Check out her blog Child Talk and follow her on facebook at facebook.com/ChildTalk. Becca publishes with Stephanie Sigal M.A., CCC-SLP on ASHAsphere, the blog for The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association.
Parents often read to their two year old and four year old simultaneously. Early childhood teachers read to their students every school day. When reading to a group of children, it is vital that you are familiar with the text. You may wish to take a moment to think about open-ended questions you can ask children before you begin a story. For example, if you were to be reading Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, you could ask “Does anyone know what bears do all winter long?” If you get a response such as “sleep” or “hibernate,” great! If you do not get a response, inform the children. Giving them a glimpse into the story will enhance their understanding and appreciation.
Ask questions during the story. Perhaps there is a vocabulary word the children might not be familiar with. In the book Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay up Late by Mo Willems, the pigeon insists the children listening to the book let him stay up so he can watch an educational program on television. You can ask, “What does educational mean?” You can also explain to the children how the pigeon is trying to “trick” (manipulate) them into letting him stay up late. Then, ask the children “How have you tried to trick your parents?”
At the conclusion of a story, ask children to carry over a main theme from a book into their daily lives. For example, after reading My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann, ask the children “What does it mean to be a good friend?”
Adding props and puppets to group story time can engage kids with various levels of attention. In Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, the peddler walks around carrying many caps on his head. The children can do the same with caps that you have previously collected for story time, or they can use their winter hats, or caps that they make as an art project to accompany the theme of the book.
Using different voices and revealing the characters’ emotions while acting out the story can also help children attend and relate more effectively. The mother dog in Bark, George by Jules Feiffer gets frustrated with her son, while he makes great animal sounds. The children will laugh when you over-act the role of George, his mother and especially the veterinarian reaching deep down into George’s mouth to pull out all the animals he has consumed.
Children are inspired to verbally participate when their peers say the repetitive line in a story together. In Tikki Tikki Tembo retold by Arlene Mosel, the older brother’s name is Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo. Opportunities to say this long name come up numerous times, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, and children listening will want to try to say the name along with you.
Always read the title, author and illustrator’s names. Ask the children “What is an author?” “What is an illustrator?” Provide the information accordingly. If the author has written other books the children may be familiar with, ask them “What other books has this author written?” If necessary, name one or two of the books and you may notice how excited the children become when they realize they have shared a previous experience with you.
If you need help choosing the right books based on your child’s needs, you can ask your speech therapist, child’s teacher or librarian.
Stephanie Sigal, M.A. CCC-SLP, is a speech language therapist practicing on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC. She works with babies, toddlers and school age children with expressive language delay and articulation disorders. Stephanie provides home based speech therapy and encourages parents to facilitate their children’s speech and language skills. To learn more about Stephanie, please visit sayandplayfamily.
Reading books with your child can provide experiences and vocabulary that he or she may not be exposed to on a daily basis. Experience allows children to gain understanding. When a child understands vocabulary and situations, he or she has the foundation to use these words in verbal language.
Always read with your child face to face with the book next to your face, not in front of your mouth. This will allow your child to see how you move your mouth when you say words, see your facial expressions and engage in eye contact. With a baby, you can create this opportunity while he or she is on the change table, floor, car seat, bouncy chair or on your thighs facing you.
Reading with your child everyday should start from birth. At this time, you can read anything to your son or daughter, even The New York Times. What matters is HOW you read it. Read with feeling, show emotion and pause to allow your baby to vocalize back to you.
Initially, choose books with a story and meaning. Vocabulary board books (e.g., books by Roger Priddy or select DK Publishing books) will be boring for you and not provide much benefit for your baby. Reading longer stories during the first months will help to build your child’s attention. Books like The Three Bears by Byron Barton, Summer by Alice Low and Chewy Louie by Howie Schneider will be fun for you and your baby.
If your toddler has trouble paying attention to a book, try reading when he or she is “trapped” (e.g., in the highchair eating, in the car seat while traveling, just waking up from a nap in the stroller). I once worked with a two year old boy who would only happily pay attention to an unfamiliar book while standing in his crib facing me. Once he became familiar with a book, we could read the book elsewhere.
Choosing the right books can help target speech and language skills you want to develop.
If your child is not talking, choose books that contain words that begin with bilabial sounds. These are sounds where your upper and lower lips come together (/m/, /b/ and /p/). Bilabial sounds are generally early sounds produced by children because they can see how an adult is moving their lips, which is helpful for imitation. Favorite books that include bilabial sounds are It’s Not Easy Being a Bunny (Marilyn Sadlow), The Berenstains’ B Book (Stanley and Jan Berenstain) and any book that contains animal sounds (moo, baa, maa). Overemphasize /m/, /b/ and /p/ and make eye contact with your child when saying bilabial sounds in any book.
Selecting books with repetitive phrases may allow your child to participate during story time. Great examples include: Dear Zoo (Rod Campbell), The Very Busy Spider (Eric Carle) and The Gingerbread Boy (Richard Egielski). Give your child the opportunity to complete the repetitive line, or if he or she is ready, the whole line. Hopefully, these words will carry over into daily vocabulary.
Rhyming books help children with word prediction, which is crucial for reading development. Once familiar with a rhyming book, have your child try to fill-in the rhyming word. Dr. Seuss’ The Foot Book begins: Left foot, Left foot, Right foot, Right – Feet in the morning, Feet at _____ (child should say “night”).
If your child’s speech therapist has determined that understanding and using prepositions is an important goal for your child, use books to reinforce what occurs in therapy. Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha, Up Above and Down Below by Sue Redding and Around the House the Fox Chased the Mouse by Rick Walton are all loaded with prepositions.
A child with more developed language who has difficulty providing details and descriptions may benefit from “reading” wordless picture books to you. Pictures in the story should be described so that the story makes sense. You can use picture books with text, as long as the pictures are detailed themselves. (You may cover the text with your hand if your child can read.) This works best with Caldecott Medal / Honor Books. Excellent examples include Knuffle Bunny books (Mo Willems), No, David! (David Shannon) and Where The Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak).
Other favorite wordless picture books include A Boy, a Dog and a Frog Series by Mercer Mayer, Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola and The Jack Series by Pat Schories. If you feel your child leaves out important information, ask an open-ended question (e.g., “Ooo – What’s happening over here?”). Provide a description if you feel this is too challenging. Perhaps this will increase your child’s awareness to be more specific and when you sit down to read the book again, the new information will be included.
Sometimes it is helpful if you “read” a wordless picture book to your child first. Describe what you see or make-up the story-line. For example, when David, the main character in the book No, David! is about to fall off the chair while reaching for a cookie, you can say: “Be careful David, you’re going to get hurt!” or “No cookies before dinner!!”
Look for Part Two Coming Soon: Encouraging Speech and Language Skills while Sharing Books with a Group of Children
This article was written by Stephanie Sigal M.A. CCC-SLP. It appeared today on the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) blog, ASHAsphere.
Wordless picture books are an essential part of a speech therapists bag of tricks. Please read my previous blog entry about encouraging details in conversation for background information.
I recently began using the “Jack” books by Pat Schories with 3 and 4 year-old children. They are great for addressing vocabulary, grammar, word finding, sentence building, describing scenes and feelings and predicting what will happen next.
These books are also an excellent tool to bridge the gap in articulation therapy between sentence level and conversation. Sometimes a child can say a target sound (e.g., “S”) in sentences, but can not say the sound correctly in conversational speech. Wordless picture books are an in-between step because children will describe the scenes with consecutive sentences using the picture scenes for support.
While the Jack books do not need to be read in any particular order, the following order works nicely:
Children learn and become excited about the characters in Jack’s life that appear in at least two books each in the series – the boy, his sister and the night visitors! It is fun to search the detailed pictures and the search helps with visual scanning too.
Stephanie Sigal, M.A. CCC-SLP is a speech language therapist practicing on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC. She works with babies, toddlers and school age children with expressive language delay and articulation disorders. Stephanie provides home based speech therapy and encourages parents to facilitate their children’s speech and language skills. To learn more about Stephanie, please visit http://sayandplayfamily.com/.
If your child attends well to books at age four, he or she may be ready to listen to short, simple chapter books. Occasional black and white pictures help ease the transition from picture books.
Below are chapter books that I have shared with my own children, beginning at age four (working up to some of the more complex books on the list). There are so many opportunities in each book to ask thought provoking and prediction questions. For example, “What do you think is going to happen next?”, ”How do you think the boy is feeling?”, ”Why do you think he is angry?” and ”What do you think (vocabulary word) means?”.
Authors of these books usually explain meanings of more complex vocabulary words within the text, but asking your child what he or she thinks a word means and providing feedback as necessary, is a great opportunity to learn new words. Learning new words within the context of a story they are enjoying will help retain meaning.
Series chapter books make it easy to decide what to read next. Favorite character’s future adventures are exciting to look forward to.
Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne – Books #1 through 28 are shorter than Magic Tree House Merlin Mission Books #29 through 44. Reading these books in order is fun, or have your child select favorite topics.
Judy Blume – These three chapter books can be read in one sitting each (and easily re-read):
The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo
The Pain and the Great One
The Pain and the Great One have their own series:
Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One
Cool Zone with the Pain and the Great One
Going, Going, Gone! with the Pain and the Great One
Friend or Fiend? with the Pain and the Great One
If you and your child enjoy these books, you may want to try The Fudge Books.
Mercy Watson books by Kate DiCamillo – There are six of these simple chapter books that are colorfully illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. Kate DiCamillo also writes longer, wonderful novels. Our favorite is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.
Roald Dahl’s unique books range in length. The Enormous Crocodile and Fantastic Mr. Fox are on the shorter side. As a number of Dahl’s books have been made into movies, it can be motivating to watch the corresponding movie after reading the book.
The last few books we read aloud were Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Dahl, Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins (you’ll joke about the “submarine” (subliminal) messages) and sure to not only be a Manhattan favorite, but an adventure for all – Walls Within Walls by Maureen Sherry.
The later has taken us on our own adventures to check out the sites in the book – Grant’s Tomb, the whisper gallery at Grand Central Terminal, The Staten Island Ferry and the abandoned City Hall subway stop.
Continue to read chapter books aloud even when your child begins to read independently. Choose books above his or her personal reading level to expand interests, knowledge, vocabulary and critical thinking. You and your child will enjoy this special time together.
Stephanie Sigal M.A. CCC-SLP is a speech language therapist in Manhattan. She works with children with articulation delay and language delay in their upper east side homes. You can contact Stephanie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646.295.4473.
Stephanie Sigal is a speech therapist in Manhattan. She works with children in their homes on the Upper East Side. You can contact her at email@example.com.
Rhyming is an early phonological awareness (listening) skill children use to distinguish units of speech. Recognizing rhymes is crucial to reading development.
Understanding how we have syllables within words and the ability to discern phonemes (sounds) in syllables are also phonological awareness skills that facilitate literacy.
If you would like to encourage your child’s rhyming skills, here are some fun activities to practice:
Motown – I Heard It Through The Grapevine, My Girl, Good Lovin’, Joy To The World, The Tracks Of My Tears, Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, I Want You Back, ABC
Barenaked Ladies and James Taylor have many songs with rhyming lyrics.
70′s – Celebration (Kool & The Gang), We Are Family (Sister Sledge), I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor), Y.M.C.A. (VIllage People), Takin’ Care of Business (Bachman-Turner Overdrive), 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover (Paul Simon)
80′s – Who Can It Be Now (Men At Work), 867-5309 / Jenny (Tommy Tutone), Mr. Roboto (STYX), Walking on Sunshine (Katrina and The Waves), Manic Monday (The Bangles)
90′s – Good Riddance / Time of Your Life (Green Day), Hairspray Soundtrack
Hip Hop is great for rhyming, but the lyrics are not always appropriate, try: Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It (Will Smith).
To be more specific with details and descriptions, encourage your son to “read” wordless picture books to you. You can also use picture books with text, as long as the pictures are detailed / expressive themselves. This works best with Caldecott Medal / Honor Books. These books won the Caldecott Award because a child who can not read, can tell the story on his own, just by looking at the pictures. Caldecott books can be found at your local library or where children’s books are sold. Try: Books of Wonder or the Bank Street Bookstore in Manhattan.
Stephanie is a speech therapist in NYC.
Did you know that the best way to read to your young child is face to face? When you read in this fashion, your child can observe your facial expressions and watch how you move your mouth when you speak. Reading books to your child will help improve their vocabulary, grammar, attention, thinking and memory skills.
Here are more ideas for reading with your child.
Great summer books for birth-four year olds: