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.
Favorite Wordless Picture Books
Stormy: A Story About Finding a Forever Home
This is a current favorite at our house right now. It's about the sweetest little stray dog. Not only will the story melt your heart, the illustrations are stunning.
This book is so funny and so fun to read with kids. A young bird's mother thinks it's high time the little bird venture out of the nest, but little bird has a lot of very funny reasons why flying will be totally unnecessary.
Field Trip to the Moon
This is such a clever story about a class field trip to the moon. But when one student misses the spaceship bus home, the story really gets interesting. It's like a cross between the Simpsons and the Magic School Bus, in the best possible way.
This is the wordless picture book that turned me into a reader! There's never been a more magical picture book than this one.
The Three Pigs
This is another from the inimitable David Wiesner. It tells the story of the three little pigs, but more creatively than you've ever seen it before.
The Lion & the Mouse
This Caldecott winner is a must read. It's a gorgeously illustrated retelling of the classic fable.
In this day and age, when so many of us are so easily distracted, this beautiful book about a girl gathering wild flowers, has a powerful message.
Wolf in the Snow
This Caldecott winner is a beautiful book about friendship. Both a girl and a wolf are lost in a snowstorm. Can they help each other, despite their differences?
It's a simple book about a day at the beach, but the vibrant, inviting illustrations are so magical you'll want to jump right into this story.
Little Fox in the Forest
A little girl takes her beloved stuffed fox to the playground, but the story takes a turn when a real fox snatches it and runs into the forest. We absolutely adore this book.
Journey (Aaron Becker's Wordless Trilogy)
This trilogy is so creative and so magical - you must read them all!
Walrus is bored with the zoo, so he leaves. Little readers will love watching walrus evade his would be captors in this funny wordless picture book.
When a little bird wakes up from his nap he realizes his flock has flown south without him. Luckily, Patrick McDonnell's iconic little cat is kind and helps him find his way. I couldn't love this book more.
This is a book about trying again when you fail. A child makes a paper boat, but when it is destroyed in the rain, his father helps try again. It's a captivating story from a favorite author/illustrator.
Three children find a bag of magical chalk one rainy day at the playground. Aren't you already intrigued?
This is a beloved classic for a reason. This is one of the most read picture books at my house!
The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC's (the Hard Way)
Hands down, my favorite ABC book of all time. This one is just so clever. My kids never get tired of studying these illustrations.
That Neighbor Kid
Kids can totally relate to this story about making a new friend. We've had so many conversations about this book at our house
The Farmer and the Clown
This book is equal parts whimsical and touching. A baby clown is separated from his family when he accidentally bounces off the circus truck and lands in a field. The farmer who owns the field finds the clown and an unlikely friendship is born.
I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness
One of my all time favorite picture books. It's a powerful book about kindness and standing up for what's right.
The Red Book (Caldecott Honor Book)
I love books about books. In this one, a child finds a little red book in the snow, but what's inside is pure magic.
This author/illustrator, Jihyeon Lee, has several wonderful wordless picture books. This one, Pool, is my favorite so far. It's a gentle book about two shy kids who meet at the pool.
The Girl and the Bicycle
This is a wonderful book about persistence. A little girl sees a shiny bicycle in a shop window and works to save enough money for it. However, when she goes back to buy it, the bike is gone. Don't worry though, it has a happy ending.
The story begins with a boy visiting a museum, but one painting catches his attention and you'll love what happens next.
This is a longer wordless picture book, almost but not quite a graphic novel. Still, it's one of the very best books about immigration that I've ever come across so I'm including it here.
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Paige Cassandra Flamm says
These all look so fun! We need to check some of these out at the library!
Stormy, actually brought tears to my eyes. My 5 year old grandson said, “it will be okay grandma, I already read it....so keep reading”. So many more to check out.