September 17, Wordless Picture Books

I've been waiting to write about wordless picture books until Stormy by Guojing came out today. Stormy has a beautiful story with never a written word. The emotions Guojing conveys through her illustrations--the use of light, full page spreads, and other artistic elements--are clear and easily evoked. But you might be thinking 'why a wordless picture book?' I know many people use picture books to introduce their children to the idea of reading, to have story time as an interaction between an adult and a child, and to focus on introducing vocabulary and text into a child's life. Wordless picture books can still bring about familiarity with the concept of a book. There is still a story and pages to turn, but they also teach other skills, like visual literacy. If you've ever tried to interpret a painting in an art museum or a political cartoon, you've used some form of visual literacy. They also offer opportunities for creative interpretation. While the illustrator clearly depicts a story, there is room for interpretation, to imagine what the characters might be saying, to elaborate on the images with a personal touch on the tale. There's actually been a fair amount of research into the role of wordless picture books in the classroom. A cursory google search turned up a number of articles in library journals. 

We've been finding that more and more of superb quality are coming out. A variety of different wordless picture books have been gracing our shelves and all of them should be considered the next time you're looking for a picture book. There are serious ones, like A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker that follows the history of a stone a little girl is picking out to use as a memorial of her deceased dog; funny ones, like Field Trip to the Moon by John Hare, which shows a student getting separating from the rest of the class and drawing pictures to communicate with aliens; ones that are homages to silent films--specifically Jessie Sima's Spencer's New Pet; and so many more.