Beyond Words: How Wordless Picture Books Enhance Classroom Learning

Beyond Words: How Wordless Picture Books Enhance Classroom Learning

Who says you need words to weave a compelling story? These wordless picture books offer you a tool to ignite your students' creativity, imagination, and visual comprehension. Books without words let children interpret, comprehend, and recount their unique versions of the wordless stories and hone crucial skills such as inference, prediction, and narrative construction.

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Wordless Picture Books in the Classroom

Wordless picture books, obviously, are books with no (or very limited) words. The reader must rely on the illustration and their imagination to tell the story.

Picture books without words are often quickly dismissed as being too easy. But they are a powerful tool for developing literacy skills. 

Understanding a wordless picture book involves interpreting the illustrations as there is no text to rely on. This promotes comprehension, vocabulary, listening skills and an understanding of story structure and character development.

Wordless picture books inspire literacy development, storytelling, inferring and questioning skills. The illustrations help younger children understand a story without reading any words. Retelling a story from a wordless picture book develops literacy expression.

wordless picture books

Benefits of Reading Wordless Picture Books

Reading wordless picture books in the classroom can have several benefits for students:

Enhancing creativity: Wordless picture books encourage students to use their imagination and create their own stories. This helps enhance their creativity and foster a love of storytelling.

Improving comprehension: When reading books without words, students must rely on their ability to interpret visual cues to understand the story. This develops comprehension skills and the ability to make inferences based on visual information.

Encouraging language development: Reading books without words helps students develop their language skills by encouraging them to describe what they see in the illustrations. This builds vocabulary and improves the ability to express themselves.

Promoting visual literacy: Wordless picture books help students develop their visual literacy skills by teaching them how to interpret visual information and understand the relationship between images.

Supporting diverse learners: Wordless picture books are particularly beneficial for students struggling with reading, language acquisition, or speaking English as a second language. They provide a way for these students to engage with books and stories at their level and pace.

Reading wordless picture books in the classroom can be valuable for promoting creativity, comprehension, language development, visual literacy, and supporting diverse learners.


Questions to Pair with Wordless Picture Books

  • What emotions are the characters showing in these pictures? How can you tell?
  • Based on the illustrations, predict what will happen next in the story.
  • If you could add words to this story, what would they be?
  • What do you think the illustrator wants us to feel while looking at these pictures?
  • How do the illustrations change from the beginning to the end of the book?
  • Can you identify any patterns or repeated elements in the illustrations?
  • What details in the illustrations helped you understand the story?
  • How does the lack of words affect how you experience the story?
  • How did the colours in the illustrations help you understand the mood or emotions of the characters?
  • What would the characters say to each other if you could add dialogue to this story?
  • How would the story differ if the illustrations were in a different style (e.g., more realistic, more abstract)?
  • How did the absence of words challenge you as you read this book?
  • How does this wordless book inspire your own creativity or imagination?

Wordless Picture Books List

Another by Christian Robinson

Enter the topsy-turvy world of Another with a young girl who steps into a world that mirrors her own but with its distinct twists. She encounters children of various ethnicities, attires, and games, offering a diverse yet familiar tapestry of experiences.

Another encourages students to interpret the book in their own way. It explores themes of open-mindedness, adaptability, and perspectives and urges students to remain adaptable and open-minded as they navigate different and unfamiliar scenarios.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

The protagonist leaves his family when he ventures into a new, strange, and unknown city with unfamiliar customs, languages, and creatures. When he navigates through this perplexing city, attempting to make it a new home, he encounters kind strangers, each with their own immigration story, who assist him in understanding and acclimating to his new environment. 

The Arrival, a wordless book, explores hope, empathy, acceptance, perseverance, and the search for belonging.

Art & Max by David Wiesner

This is the first of three picture books without words by David Wiesner. Art, a seasoned painter, and Max, a novice, approach art-making differently. When Max decides to literally paint Art, chaos erupts. Art turns into a line drawing, and it’s up to Max to restore him, utilizing his creativity and quick thinking. 

Art & Max, a wordless book, explores the creative process and encourages discussions about individuality, enthusiasm, forgiveness, creative problem-solving and openness to new ideas.

Bee and Me by Alison Jay

Initially scared of a bee in her room, a girl captures and observes it, forming a bond. The bee shares its challenges from environmental changes and its vital ecosystem role. Touched, she helps by spreading flowers in the city to support bees.

Bee and Me promotes an understanding of the importance of bees, environmental conservation, empathy, friendship, and the interdependence of species in an engaging manner.

Belonging by Jeannie Baker

This is the first of two wordless picture books by Jeannie Baker. This wordless book emphasizes the need to care for our environment amidst swift urbanization and lost habitats. It explores community, urban growth, conservation, and collective action power, conveying that every small environmental action matters.

Belonging is a foundation for discussions on urbanization, city green spaces, community conservation, and our part in a sustainable future.

A Boy and a House by Maja Kastelic

In this wordless picture book, a curious boy follows a cat into an open door of an apartment building. In the lobby, he picks up a discarded drawing from the floor. He continues up the stairway and discovers an open door leading to an apartment filled with books, toys, and a table set for tea. 

The boy finds more discarded drawings scattered throughout the room, which he collects before continuing his journey. Sketches in hand, the boy finally reaches the attic, where a wondrous surprise awaits him.

Chalk by Bill Thomson

This is the first of two picture books without words by Bill Thomson. Three friends find a bag of magical chalk at the park – whatever they draw becomes real. A sun clears clouds, butterflies fly, and dinosaurs leap from the 2D realm. When a dinosaur chases them, they must creatively and quickly resolve the predicament they unintentionally caused.

Chalk promotes creativity, problem-solving, and the power of imagination. It offers a lesson about responsibility and consequences, teaching children that every action can have effects they must deal with.

Corner by Zo-o

This almost-wordless picture book explores the journey of a crow as it transforms an empty corner into a cozy space. The crow furnishes the corner with various items but still feels something is missing. Through creative expression, the crow adds patterns on the walls and a window, eventually realizing that connecting with the world outside is what it truly needs. 

Corner encourages students to step outside their comfort zones, embrace self-expression and highlights the importance of making connections and finding happiness through reaching out to others.