• Why should you read wordless picture books?

    by  • 10 February 2014 • Children's Books, Steiner-Waldorf Education • 0 Comments

    A New Day cover Rain or Shine cover

    Sharing stories with young children is widely acknowledged to be key in their development of literacy and communication skills. But many parents overlook the benefits of picture books without words. In this type of book, the story emerges through exploring the illustrations, rather than the words on the page. This leaves the child free to become more involved in the storytelling process, by naming the characters, spotting details in the pictures or relating the story to their own experiences.

    A recent study by the University of Waterloo in Canada has shown that picture books without words can increase toddlers’ vocabulary more than traditional children’s picture books. In the study, twenty-five mothers were given one book with words and one without to read to their toddlers. It was found that the mothers tended to use more complex language when reading the book without words, describing objects and relating them to real life experiences rather than just naming them.

    This type of storytelling without “reading” per se is particularly important in Steiner Waldorf education. One of the key points of this alternative education system is that formal learning should not be forced on children at a young age, with the focus instead being on exploring the world around them through creative play. Although reading is generally not formally taught until around age six, there is a very strong oral tradition in Steiner Waldorf schools and kindergartens. Wordless picture books allow children to tell stories themselves, encouraging them to use their own words rather than being constrained by words written on a page. The familiarity with language gained from this type of reading leads naturally to formally learning to read at a later date.

    Spring by Gerda Muller coverSummer by Gerda Muller coverAutumn by Gerda Muller coverWinter by Gerda Muller cover

    Floris Books are delighted to publish a number of wordless picture books, including Rain or Shine and A New Day by Ronald Heuninck and Gerda Muller’s ‘seasons’ books; Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. All these beautiful board books have fun, bright illustrations with plenty of detail to spot, and give an opportunity to engage your child.

     Some Helpful Tips for Sharing Wordless Picture Books

    (From the Scottish Book Trust)

    1. Describe what you see

    Describing the pictures encourages us to use language that is different from how we normally speak. This will expose children to a rich variety of language.

    2. Point things out

    Take your time and point things out in the pictures. Pointing and labelling helps children to learn the meaning of new words. This will also help draw their attention to details in the illustrations.

    3.  Go beyond the pictures

    Ask the children open ended questions about what might be happening and why. Be sure to give children plenty of time to think about their responses. When children reply, repeat what they say and add more information. For example, if a child points out a cat, describe the cat – “that’s right, there is a black cat”. 

    4. Use story language

    When you’re reading the story, try using simple words and phrases like ‘next’ and ‘then’. These linking words help children catch the idea of the flow of a story and how to tell a story in order.

    5. Play with the story

    You don’t always have to tell the story in the same way. If there is more than one character in the book, tell the story from different perspectives. You can make up a different story every time.




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