Wordless Picture Books and Language Development

Wordless picture books encourage language development. Below, I’ve complied previous 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…

Articulation

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.

 Language

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.

 Social-Emotional Awareness

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?

“Jack” Books

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.

Frog Series

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.

Caldecott Favorites

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.

 Funny Pictures

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.