Sharing picture books with children is a wonderful way to bond, spend quiet time together and introduce your little ones to the big world beyond your arms. The stories can be funny, informative and comforting and the illustrations help guide the child through the book, encouraging them to work out the words for themselves. But what do you do when there are no words; or just one or two?
The following books are some of my favourite (nearly) wordless picture books. They offer you and your child an opportunity to ask questions about what the pictures are showing and, using imagination and creativity, develop your child’s own stories and ideas. They are great for developing empathy and can be enjoyed by everyone – especially useful for people who are not confident readers or for those who don’t have English as their home language.
Stick! – Andy Pritchett
This delightful book about fun and friendship only uses six different words, but it is very clear what is happening. The backgrounds are all very simple and uncluttered and the story makes me smile every time I read it.
Some authors have created a range of wordless picture books. You may already be familiar with the board books produced by Helen Oxenbury. If not, you might like to look at these three.
Red Sledge – Lita Judge
There are words in this book, but not very many and they are more like guidelines to help you create sound effects. If you have a young child who has been slow in speaking, encourage them to make the sounds with you.
Clown – Quentin Blake
I know that some children find clowns a bit creepy – and so do some grown-ups – but this book might help to change that. It starts as a sad story, but develops into a tale full of friendship and hope.
Archie – Domenica More Gordon
Archie is a very enterprising dog. The busier he gets, the more words appear on the page, but they are all single words, not sentences. Word of Archie’s talents spread – who do you think will be his most important customer?
Another author who specialises in wordless picture books is Alison Jay. There are no words at al in her books, unless they are on sign. Each page takes you a step further through the story. The pictures are bright and busy, but very clear and often amusing. At the end of each book you will find some pages of information or suggestions to help expand a message from the pictures. Try these three and, if you like them, look for more of her titles on the library catalogue.
Mr Wuffles – David Weisner
I have to confess that this is one of my favourite picture books of all time. It contains, cats, aliens and insects and, although words are used, only one of the characters speaks English. The other languages are truly alien. It is an exciting story and great fun, especially for slightly older children.
Moonlight – Jan Ormerod
I’m ending this collection with a beautiful book about a family’s evening and how they prepare for bed. I’m certain the images will strike a chord with many a tired parent, but it is also useful for promoting discussions about bed time with your young child.
If you have a favourite wordless (or nearly wordless) picture book for young children, please let us know in the comments. We’d love to get some new ideas.