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A Way Without Words

A Way Without Words

By Charlotte Frank, FCPL Early Literacy Assistant

Did you know there is an entire genre of children’s books that feature no (or very few) words? It may sound strange, but these books, aptly named “wordless books,” can be just as enjoyable and beneficial a learning tool as those with words.

Children love the wordless picture book genre because they can use their own imaginations to create original storylines. Sharing these books with little ones creates the opportunity for rich dialogue about their interpretation of a story’s imagery with no risk for wrong answers, something that can be really empowering for beginning readers. Additionally, being able to narrate or describe a story based on visual information is an important skill to develop for early literacy. In this case, early readers can use the pictures as cues to recognize word meaning, plot development and understand story sequencing.

Wordless books also promote conversation and turn-taking with children. Sit with them holding the book so they can see the pictures then take turns describing where the storyline is going. Introduce higher order thinking skills by having children make predictions about what is happening next in the story. A great book to start with is Peggy Rathmann’s 10 Minutes Till Bedtime, a hilarious tale encouraging “readers” to guess what a hamster family is going to do next until bedtime.

Wordless picture books are beneficial to reluctant or struggling readers as well as students who are learning English as their second language. Interpreting and discussing a text without fear of failure is a great confidence builder for any reader. For kids who may be uncomfortable discussing a book aloud, you can even keep the “wordless” fun going by pairing Chalk by Bill Thomson with an outdoor activity using different colors of chalk and the sidewalk outside to continue the story.

You can find a complete list of wordless picture books available in Fairfax County Public Library’s collection by visiting

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