The first home-school reading books that children in Reception receive are often wordless picture books, but how do you read a book with no words in? What benefit are they to children?

What is a wordless book?

Wordless picture books are told through their illustrations and have either a few words or none at all. The aim is for children to use the pictures to tell their own story. They are usually the first types of home-school reading books that are sent home for two reasons:

1. the children are not not usually able to read words yet

2. they are actually a vital yet often undervalued part of a child’s development

How is a wordless book beneficial for children?

These types of books are so important in developing children’s conversation and story-telling skills and are a wonderful and important way of developing their reading and vocabulary. They help a child’s understanding and connection with books as they are required to become an active participant in the story instead of only listening to an adult read it. They begin to understand the structure of stories through wordless books; they learn that stories have a beginning, middle and end.

How do you read a wordless book?

  1. It is important to remember that quite often when they first begin the child’s story might be more descriptive, talking about what they can see rather than telling a story. You might like to take turns and model telling a story.
  2. The front cover of the book is so important, it’s almost like a window into the story – ensure you look at and talk about it:
    • What can the child see?
    • What might the story be about?
    • Do they have any predictions about what might happen?
  3. Go on a ‘picture walk’ through the story:
    • What can they see?
    • Who are the characters?
    • What do they think might happen?
    • How are the characters feeling and how do you know?
    • Model using descriptive language, such as ‘the boy looks like he is feeling sad because he has lost his teddy.’
    • As you go through the book enjoy the pictures and point out what you can see, don’t worry about telling the story just yet
  4. Look through the book again, be prepared to begin telling a story. It will be beneficial for you to take turns reading a page each as this will model story telling and story language to the child. Ensure you are enthusiastic and use a wide range of vocabulary and expressions with character voices.
  5. Once the child has read the book ask some questions:
    • What happened in the story?
    • Which was your favourite part?
    • Has that ever happened to you?

Wordless books are too often undervalued; they should be a staple in any home or school. Just because they have no words don’t discount their importance!

Booktrust, the UK’s largest reading charity lists their favourite wordless books which are worth exploring: