5 Reasons to Read Wordless Picture Books to Any Age (Plus a Few Great Titles)

As a reading teacher, I most often get the question, "What's it say?" So when I help a child pick out a wordless picture book I can turn the tables and ask, "What do you see?" These books are typically given to young children but they can be utilized in creative ways for almost any age, even teenagers. 

Here are some reasons to pick one up: 

1. To teach a love of books to any child, even reluctant readers. 

Sometimes parents say their child just doesn't like books and often teachers say they just haven't found the right ones yet. There are lots of reasons that parents and teachers struggle to help children love reading but most kids are easily captivated by beautiful images. For struggling and new readers, wordless picture books take the pressure off and help them gain confidence when they learn that reading the pictures is too a form of reading. Wordless picture books engage emerging readers who can tell a detailed story about the images. And for developed readers, picture books make them feel young again. Allowing older children to read wordless picture books can evoke a cozy and nostalgic feeling or a sense that they are "getting away" with something by studying a kid's book. 

2. To teach story structure.

Through wordless picture books, children are gaining an appreciation for story structure (the beginning, middle, and ending of a story). When they go to school these skills are formalized into concepts like the story mountain, or plot, sequence, conflict, and resolution. These skills are carried into high school and even college. When children understand structure just by enjoying read-alouds at a young age they are way ahead of the game. 

3. To encourage writing and story-telling. 

Developed readers are able to tell a detailed story using descriptive language and enhanced vocabulary. Older students can have fun with wordless picture books by comparing their version of a story to that of a classmate's or writing a detailed text to go with the book. 

4. To engage children who speak multiple languages

Maybe storytelling is so meaningful to all age groups because it's universal. Recent research also shows that wordless books are great for bilingual students. By allowing teachers and tutors to use wordless picture books, children may speak their native language to tell a story, which in turn teaches universal pre-reading skills while protecting the students' language. 

5. Simply…to have fun. 

Marilyn Jager Adams is a goddess to nerdy reading teachers like myself. In her book, Beginning To Read, she explains that,

It is not just reading to children that makes the difference, it is enjoying the books with them and reflecting on their form and content. It is developing and supporting the children’s curiosity about text and the meaning it conveys...And it is showing the children that we value and enjoy reading and that we hope they will too.

Here are some of great titles to get your search started:

Flora and the Flamingo By Molly Idle. Flora and the Flamingo play together as they attempt to mimic each other's moves. The interactive flaps in this book make their dance and sequence, even more, fun for the reader. 

 

Wave by Suzy Lee. A fun story of a little girl's day at the beach. She dances and plays with the ocean as its waves crash and recede. The colors and images create a calming and nostalgic feel. 

 

 

The Girl and The Bicycle by Mark Pett. An incredibly endearing story about a girl who wants a new shiny bicycle she spots in a store window. She must earn the money for the bike. To do so, she befriends an older woman who gives her odd jobs. The story teaches kindness and hard work while giving the reader a surprise ending. 

Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola. A classic. This humorous book tells the story of an old woman who is determined to enjoy a pancake breakfast.

 

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd. The images and artistic cutouts in this book are outstanding. The story is of a boy's walk to his tent in the dark during a camping trip. 

 

Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage. This silly story shows a clever walrus who escapes from the zoo. The zookeeper is looking for him and follows him on his adventures throughout the city. 

 

 

David Wiesner books. Tuesday, Flotsam and Sector 7 are all highly creative and unique stories of adventure and imagination. Each has very bold, detailed images which capture mature readers and would make create writing prompts. 

Books That Teach Gratitude

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Gretchen Rubin writes in her book The Happiness Project, "When I find myself focusing overmuch on the anticipated future happiness of arriving at a certain goal, I remind myself to 'Enjoy now'. If I can enjoy the present, I don't need to count on the happiness that is (or isn't) waiting for me in the future."

Gratitude Journal is an app I've been using for several months now. If my baby is crying a lot or I feel anxious about a big life decision, I will stop and quickly jot down a few moments or just attach a picture that brings me joy and I instantly start to feel calmer. 

 A friend gave us the book, I'm Thankful Each Day as a baby gift. When my daughter was about 18 months old it was her favorite book of all. I've just recently taken it back out of storage and she has so many sweet things to say. "I'm thankful for my teachers and my sissy." So I went on a hunt to find some other good ones that spark conversation.

 

 

Here are a few keepers:

I'm Thankful Book - Todd Parr books are so intriguing to both babies and preschoolers. I imagine the bold primary colors and large faces are attention-grabbers. Parr has a way of explaining very complex issues in a simple and straightforward way. He takes the pressure off of parents by starting the conversation.  

 

Little Elliot, Big Family - Elliot and Little Mouse established a sweet friendship in Mike Curato's first book by using their strengths to help one another. (Little Elliot, Big City is one of my family's all-time favorites). In Little Elliot, Big Family, the tiny elephant is grateful for an unlikely family of friends. This is a sweet book for kids and adults alike.

 

Good People Everywhere - This book is as moving for adults as it is for children. Watching the news can make anyone feel hopeless. It's important to remember that there are nice and kind people all over the globe and that acts of kindness help the world go around. The book has beautiful images of people helping one another. For example, the author writes, "Today carpenters are building fences and houses, and repairing homes that have been damaged by storms."

 

A Chair for My Mother - This book is a classic. In a world consumed with materialism the story generally makes even the youngest readers stop and think about the importance of love and relationships. The family in the story endures a house fire and then take pride in saving money for a new chair. Each member in the family is grateful, happy and appreciative of their new chair and find their own unique ways to enjoy it.

 

What are you reading this Thanksgiving season? Do you have any favorite books to teach gratitude?

 

 

Transportation Books

The Taxi That Hurried
The Taxi That Hurried

I've worked in six different schools with grades PreK-Sixth and I've never experienced a group of children that didn't love a good unit on transportation. Anytime that I've allowed the students to choose the unit, it somehow lead to 'modes of transportation.' Here are a few of my favorites. Subway by Anastasia Suen and Karen Katz has wonderful repetition for younger children. The Taxi That Hurried is a classic Golden Book. The rhyming words and onomatopoeias are fun for elementary-aged students. It's also useful when teaching how to use language in their own creative writing. Some other favorites:

Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go I remember owning this book as a child and now my own children love it. Timeless.

 

Little Blue Truck series by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry I love that this book incorporates transportation but also wonderful life lessons about being kind and taking turns for little ones.

 

Little Tug by Stephen Savage Little Tug is the smallest boat in the harbor but manages to save the day.

Chugga-Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis This book is simple but very engaging for 2, 3 and even 4 year olds. It's a nice bedtime story also.

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Byron Barton board books, especially Planes. I haven't found a storybook about a plane yet but love Byron Barton's board books for little travelers.

 

What are some of your favorites? I'm searching for transportation picture books for older children, like Goodnight Construction Site. Any recommendations?