Sunday 29 October 2017

The benefits of wordless picture books Hilary Hawkes

I used to work with preschool and foundation stage children. It was a contrast to the solitude needed for writing!  But in many ways the two situations complemented and inspired each other – spending part of my time in the often noisy, energetic, fun and always fascinating world of small children and other times on my own writing.

My favourite area of classrooms was, of course, the book or story corner. All but one of the early years classrooms I worked in valued and understood the importance of books and sharing stories. (The one that didn’t might make another blog post one day!) I eventually made pre-literacy, learning and developing through stories the basis for small group work with children who needed extra input and support.

Credit: GraphicsRF/shutterstock with permission

That stage before children begin to work out how written words work and how to read is so vital. What they gain from books begins long before they can actually read themselves. Sitting side by side or snuggling up together to look at a book benefits children in so many ways: enhancing their cognitive, social,  emotional and language skills just by sharing, listening and talking together.
Credit: szefei/shutterstock with permission

Wordless picture books are wonderful for this nurturing of skills: they boost imagination, creativity, observation and understanding – especially with children who have special needs. You can personalise or make a story fulfil the unique needs of an individual child if you can modify and steer it to some extent. 

The wordless picture book story can amble along at the child’s pace. Or it can be a quick story, or a long one. And how exciting that it can even be many different stories all from the same illustrations.

I found children who couldn’t read loved being able to take over the book and tell the story from the pictures themselves. Children do this with books with words too, of course, but where there is no print, just pictures, many seemed to do this with extra confidence and joy. The difference with wordless picture books is that you don’t read a story together you discover one together.

Asking questions, based on the pictures, character expressions or actions etc about how a character might be feeling, why they might have done something can help children who find expressing or controlling emotions understand themselves and others a little better too.
I might be someone who absolutely cannot draw or illustrate, but I love the popularity of wordless picture books and their increasing use. They create wonderful bonding and learning experiences for all children as parent and child, grandparent and child, carer and child, or teacher and child share together.

If you have any favourites, tips for using them or experiences with books without words I’d love it if you could share them in the comments below.


Anonymous said...

They can be a helpful way to introduce books to children with anxiety about reading too.

Hilary Hawkes said...

Yes. With wordless books everyone can 'read' the story whatever their reading level. Thank you.