Reading Wordless Picture Books: How and Why

Sometimes young readers get nervous when it comes to reading aloud. Sometimes you have a family member who isn’t comfortable reading in English and would prefer to use another language. In these cases, wordless picture books are a wonderful way to share the joy of reading without the added stress of reading. Wordless picture books allow you to let your imagination run wild, building a dialogue and storyline unique to the readers. Building a narrative is a fantastic way to not only develop reading comprehension but also to strengthen and build vocabulary. By using wordless pictures books, you and your young child can share a story and a bonding experience that is special and unique. You can do this in any language, so take advantage of this opportunity to let your storytelling skills shine.

Look for these titles on your next trip to the library or do a simple catalog search for stories without words for a complete list of wordless books in our collection.

Popular Wordless Picture Books at SJPL

Flashlight coverFlashlight by Lizi Boyd

In this story without words, a boy explores the woods after dark with a flashlight.

Polo and the Dragon coverPolo and the Dragon by Regis Faller

Polo the dog becomes trapped in the ice and snow while out sailing one day, but a friendly dragon helps him escape.

Red Hat coverRed Hat by Lita Judge

In this almost wordless picture book, a troupe of baby forest animals borrows a child's hat, until all that is left is a long piece of red string.

A Ball for Daisy coverA Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

A wordless picture book showing the fun a dog has with her ball, and what happens when it is lost.

Rainstorm coverRainstorm by Barbara Lehman

A boy finds a mysterious key which leads him on an adventure one rainy day.

You have the books, now what do you do?


Narrate the Action

One of the easiest ways to get started is to simply narrate or describe what you see in the illustrations. You can describe the facial expressions, or the actions of a character. Or you can describe the scenery. This a great way to develop the foundations of a storyline for the book.

Ask Questions

Ask your child to describe what they see on the page; what they think might happen in the next page, and what the main character might be thinking or feeling. When they are answering questions about the book, they are learning about the main elements that make up a story; plot, characters, conflict, theme and symbolism. Ask open-ended questions to get a more thoughtful response:

  • “What is happening on this page?”
  • “Why do you think he/she feels like way?”
  • “What could the character be thinking?”
  • “What do you think will happen next?”
  • “What choices did the character make throughout this book?”
  • “Could they have done something differently?”
  • “What would you do in this situation?”

Let the child narrate the story

This is one of the best ways to encourage reading comprehension and understanding in a young child. This is also gives you a break for having to concoct an entire story on your own. Ask your child to narrate and describe the book as you read it together. Encourage their ideas with thoughtful questions to expand on certain ideas. This exercises their imagination, oral skills, and encourages them to think of and use new vocabulary. Let your child pretend that he/she is the main character in the story, have them describe for you what is going on and what they would do. Use the book as a prompt for an ad-lib storytelling.

Most of all, remember to have fun!