Wordless Wonder: The Many Benefits of a Wordless Book | Barefoot BooksDid you know that wordless books are powerful tools for promoting literacy? One of our favorites is Out of the Blue, an extraordinary seaside adventure by Alison Jay. Since we published Out of the Blue in 2014, we’ve often been asked how to use wordless books. If you’re wondering the same thing, you’re not alone! We’re delighted to share Team Leader Laurie Mattaliano’s insight into wordless books, below (first posted on her team’s blog Footnotes). Get ready to discover the wonders of a wordless book!

The Many Benefits of a Wordless Book

Are you intimidated by a wordless book?  I recently opened my eyes to the genre and have been blown away by the research-based benefits attributed to these little wordless wonders.

Wordless Book Benefits in General

Wordless books are incredible tools for parents and teachers to boost children’s literacy. Among other things, wordless books are helpful for:

  • explaining the elements of story structure
  • developing visual literacy
  • thinking and writing creatively
  • cultivating language and narrative abilities
  • increasing literacy and vocabulary skills
  • accommodating special needs and learning styles
  • inspiring storytelling
  • developing book-handling behaviors and confidence for emergent readers

Additionally, “wordless books are well suited to contemporary children’s strengths” (Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 29, No.3).  Today’s children live in a society dominated by visual images, which are broadcast via television, computers and so forth. Because these books relate a story entirely through the illustrations, they encourage children to apply visual literacy skills, and not only draw inferences from what is pictured but also respond to the quality of the pictures and note details that adults sometimes miss.

Many useful tips can be found in Reading Rockets’ published guide for parents when reading wordless books.  One tip is to ask the child “W” questions like where, who, why, when.

Wordless Book Benefits in the Classroom

The conclusion of a fantastic study-based article from Early Childhood News noted:

Sometimes a small change in classroom practice can put a new focus on an old habit. By replacing the books in their story corner with wordless books, two teachers rediscovered the joy and wonder that books inspire. Both the children and their teachers benefited from the use of wordless picture books. If you haven’t introduced them into your classroom book corner yet, we hope that our account of this experience will motivate you to visit your local library and check them out!

Wordless Book Benefits for Children with Learning Differences

Wordless Wonder: The Many Benefits of a Wordless Book | Barefoot Books

Health News Digest reported that “Books without text can increase literacy vocabulary skills in children with developmental disabilities”. Additionally,

‘We found that when creating a story or just responding to pictures, the parent used many words and complex sentence structures while engaging with their child. That level of engagement wasn’t as present when reading books with text,’ said Gillam. ‘These results fall in line with the generally accepted belief that less structured activities, such as playing with toys or creating things with Play-Doh, elicit more productive language interactions between parent and child. These findings in no way diminish the importance of reading printed books, but incorporating interactions with wordless books is a way to build a more solid literacy foundation in children with developmental disabilities’.

Additionally from the same article and of considerable benefit to all children:

An overview of recent research found parents used many more words and complex sentence structures while engaging with their children over a wordless picture book versus a picture book with text. This level of adult-child dialogue is known to increase literacy and vocabulary skills in developmentally disabled/delayed children.

The benefits cited, and countless more like them, are beyond eye-opening. I have a newfound and robust appreciation for wordless books and the subtle power they posses. Most clearly, they deserve a place in the hands of children and all of those who share reading with them.

Thanks for sharing, Laurie!

Keen to test the literacy-building powers of a wordless book for yourself? Learn more about Out of the Blue‘s impact on visual literacy, and grab a copy for yourself! And don’t forget to share your own ideas for sharing wordless books with children in the comments below.


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