If you’ve been following our adventures here at Abundant Life for very long now, you will know I am passionately devoted to open-ended play things for children: materials that spark creativity and imagination and leave the product wide open. Our shelves are filled an odd assortment of wooden spools, ceramic tile samples, and wooden trim pieces that serve a variety of purposes throughout the day. It was not until recently that I made the connection between my love for wordless picture books and my passion for open-ended materials. With wordless picture books, the storyline is left to the reader. And while there is one primary theme running throughout, the story can be retold thousands of different ways each time it is told.
Another powerful reason to incorporate wordless picture books into our work with young children is that it gives children a chance to practice their budding literacy skills. Children demonstrate introductory phonemic awareness when they read a book from start to finish, correctly oriented with the top of the book up and the bottom of the book down, and from left to right. With traditional picture books, children often select them off the shelves and bring them to an adult to read. With wordless books, children sit an orient the books on their own laps and turn the pages for themselves. They locate the cover, and use the clues from the pictures to create a story. These are all critical early reading skills.
Along with building phonemic awareness, children practice being storytellers. They create characters, plot lines, and settings, weaving problems and resolutions through each telling. They have the chance to practice noticing details: finding the tiny clues in each picture about what is happening, and learning to read facial expressions. These are skills that carry importance beyond learning to read; they are skills that enable us to learn to read our peers.
Without further ado, here is a list of some of our absolute favorites. Our public library has all of these on the shelves, though I have invested in a few for our permanent collection. As I have clicked the Amazon site to add links to these books, I have found many of them on the 4-3 promotion, so if you are looking to build your library, you might find some savings.
The Red Book, by Barbara Lehman: In this story, a young girl finds a red book in a snowbank, and discovers a magic window that lets her see a friend on the opposite side of the world. With some creative thinking, the two find each other.
Shadow and Wave, by Suzy Lee: Lee captures the child’s fantasy world. Both books take the reader into the life of a young child who finds a variety of emotions in her imagination. I have also read Mirror, but I think the target audience for that book is an older group as it is much darker than these two.
Zoom and Re-Zoom, by Istvan Banyai. As the title suggests, the images in this book start with minute details and zoom out. As the pages turn, the canvas enlarges, and the reader finds that images can be deceiving! A great book to stretch the perspective taking skills.
Tuesday, by David Wiesner. Flying frogs. Need I say more?
Do you have some favorite wordless books? I’d love to expand my collection! Leave me a note in the comments, and we’ll head to the library! Happy Tuesday!