Jim Trelease on Wordless Picture BooksWe’re super excited to bring you the first in a series of questions and answers with Jim Trelease, author of this summer’s book study pick, The Read-Aloud Handbook (7th edition). Jim has graciously agreed to answer a series of read-aloud questions which we will be featuring periodically throughout the book study. If you’re just tuning in you can read all about the book study HERE. In anticipation of the first chapter discussion which premieres on Monday, July 8, I thought you might like to hear what Jim has to say about wordless picture books.
What are your recommendations and thoughts regarding “reading” a book that has no words to a group of young children?
Wordless books are a wonderful introduction to books and plotting for children who can’t read yet. Since we become picture-literate before we become print-literate, they can “read” the book if someone helps blaze a trail through the narrative initially. After hearing the book and seeing how the clues for the narrative are all in the pictures/illustrations, the child can pretend to read, though in fact they are taking real steps in reading. Just as pilots “read” the sky ahead of them (no words, just images of clouds), the child is taking a reading on the plot from the illustrations.
Jim makes some great points and I love his analogy of pilots- so true! As a teacher of young children I can’t stress the importance of wordless picture books enough in both preschool and kindergarten. Often, this vital step in the early literacy process is skipped in a rush to teach letters and words. True reading isn’t just about decoding the printed words on a page; it is about gaining meaning from both words and pictures.
Some of the skills that wordless picture books support are:
- Oral Language
Of course, we can’t just throw a wordless picture book their way and expect children to know what to do with them, it takes time and modeling. When sharing a wordless picture book with young children it is crucial that you ask questions along the way and model how to “tell the story.”
When reading a wordless picture book, ask questions such as:
- What do you think is happening here? (comprehension)
- What makes you think that? (inferring)
- What do you think will happen next? (predicting)
- Why? (vocabulary and oral language)
I have compiled a list of my favorite wordless picture books for you below.
Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola
Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann (although not completely wordless it still supports all the skills listed above)
The Red Book by Barbara Lehman
Truck by Donald Crews
Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins
Chalk by Bill Thomson
Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day (nearly wordless)
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
Deep in the Forest by Brinton Turkle
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
Where’s Walrus by Stephen Savage