Here’s a list of our Favorite Wordless Picture Books, along with tips and tricks for reading them aloud at home and in the classroom. Download the free printable pdf reading list.
Although it may seem counter intuitive, my love of reading actually made it difficult for me to appreciate wordless picture books for many years.
As an avid reader, I was baffled by books without words. How do you read them? Can you even call it a book if it doesn’t have any words?
The wordless picture book that changed my mind was Flotsam by David Wiesner. Esme, just a toddler at the time, pulled it off the shelf at the bookstore and was so delighted by the illustrations that we brought it home with us.
The book is about a boy who finds a camera washed up on the beach. When he gets the film developed, what he finds is so incredibly exciting. It was immediately clear to me that even without any words, it was a book with a magical story to tell.
In the ten years since I first fell in love with Flotsam, I’ve discovered so many wonderful wordless picture books. These days, I purposely seek them out, excited to be charmed by the fantastic stories a well illustrated wordless picture book can tell.
Wordless picture books are not only fun to read, they can also be useful tools for pre-readers and reluctant readers. Here’s some helpful information for how to use them.
How to Read a Wordless Picture Book
It can feel awkward, if not daunting, to “read” a wordless picture book aloud. Here are few tips to make it easier:
- With very young kids, let them point to items and label them. That’s a child. That’s a beach ball. etc. Don’t worry too much about the story, just enjoy the pictures together.
- Describe the pictures. You don’t have to be a great storyteller by nature, but if you just narrate what you see in the pictures, a story will emerge.
- Ask questions. When you are reading a wordless picture book aloud to kids, asking questions helps them to analyze the pictures and figure out the story by themselves (even before they know how to “read”). What did he find on the beach? What is he looking at? etc.
- Just turn the pages and look at the pictures. I’m always amazed by what children pick up just by looking at the pictures, without any narrating at all. In a great wordless book, the story really shines without a lot of extra effort.
How to Use Wordless Picture Books in the Classroom
Wordless Picture Books are great for teaching “active reading.” Because there are no words, kids have to put in the effort to figure out the story. The best part, is that they can be used at any grade level. Here are few ideas and activities to use wordless books in the classroom:
- Act out the story. Put the kids into small groups, let them “read” the wordless picture book, and then have them act out the story.
- Focus on the art. Help the kids analyze the illustrations – the style, technique, colors, etc. Then, let them draw a story in pictures on their own.
- Read the wordless book, together or solo-reading, and then have the kids write on this sequencing worksheet. This is a great way to gain an understanding of storyline, as well as help kids learn how to put a story together on their own.
- In early grades like kindergarten and preschool, wordless picture books can inspire a lot of confidence. There’s no wrong way to “read” a wordless book, so just letting young children “read” them on their own can be a positive and empowering experience with books.
Note: the Amazon links below are affiliate links. Scroll down for the free printable pdf list of all our favorite Wordless Picture Books.
FREE PRINTABLE Wordless PICTURE BOOK LIST
If you’d like a Free Printable Book List that you can use at the library and bookstore, just enter your email below and it will go straight to your inbox!