Wordless Books

As teachers, we know to encourage kids to use the pictures to help them with the words. We’ve all, at some time or other, helped a parent (who thinks it’s best to cover up the pictures) to understand this. So what is the place of wordless books in primary grades?  Some may wonder, “Since the children are starting to learn to read, maybe all the books I use should have words in them.” But wordless books have tremendous benefits.

Why do we want students to create stories for wordless books?

  • It helps with retelling – a skill that they will be asked to do as time goes on
  • It makes great use of their imaginations
  • It helps with adding details in writing
  • In fact, it’s a great way to rehearse a story that could be told in writing
  • They learn to tell a story in order
  • It’s great for oral language practice and expansion of vocabulary
  • And it gets kids inventing what the characters could be thinking, feeling, or saying — which is inferring beyond the literal level.

41mCUifyOJL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_I recently shared Chalk, by Bill Thomson, with a group of primary teachers.  They all fell in love with it and couldn’t wait to go order a copy. Have you ever actually taught the kids to read a wordless book?  Are you assuming they already know how? Many children who haven’t been read to a lot at home may not know how to do this at all. Modeling with a wordless picture book is easy.  You know how stories work and how they sound.  Just use your storytelling voice and begin.  You will be amazed at how fast the kids will pick up on the process. Any of the books listed below would work well in grades K-2.  And think of the benefits to students with language delays or those who are learning English as a second language. Here are some old favorites, as well as some more recent titles, that would work well in any Kinder-2nd grade classrooms, special education classes, and with ELL students:

  • Rain or Circus, both by Peter Spier
  • The Snowman, Raymond Briggs
  • Deep in the Forest, Brinton Turkle
  • The Angel and The Soldier Boy, Peter Collington
  • Good Dog, Carl (and all the Carl books), by Alexandra Day
  • Good Night, Gorilla, Peggy Rathmann
  • A Boy, A dog, and A Frog, Mercer Mayer (there are many in this series)
  • The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney
  • The Red Sled, Lita Judge
  • The Red Book, Barbara Lehman
  • Chalk, Bill Thomson
  • The Adventures of Polo, by Regis Faller
  • Also Polo and Lily, Polo and the Dragon, Polo & the Magician, Polo & the Magic Flute51YcCdeJLoL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_415chFKl5gL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_41vGnbPb-QL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_


  1. I spend quite a bit of time at the start of each year reading wordless picture books to my first graders. I’m thrilled to add some titles thanks to your list! One of my favorites is South by Patrick McDonnell. He write the comic strip, Mutts, and the book is about the cat from that strip finding a lonely bird who didn’t fly south with his flock. The cat helps the bird get back to his flock. It’s very sweet.

  2. Great post! My second graders last year also loved Tuesday by David Wiesner. They even picked it as one of their favorites at the end of the year. We used it in a lesson on noticing details in stories. I believe I got the idea from Vicki Vinton’s blog. I know you are a fan of her work also!

  3. Pingback: Parents Want to Know | Catching Readers Before They Fall

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