Why You Should Teach With Wordless Picture Books

Pin for the blog post "Why You Should Teach With Wordless Picture Books" from teachmet.com.  Photograph of an infant being read to while sitting on her father's lap.

My love of reading that dates back to my toddler days! Getting lost in a book in a seconds notice is easy for me to do. I would rather stay home and read than to leave the house on any given weekend. Give me a good book, a warm and toasty blanket, and a comfy spot and I am good to go! I poured this same love for reading into my own daughters.

This was me as a child sneaking to read books. Only, instead of reading by flashlight, I was usually lying on the floor next to my night light reading so that my mom wouldn’t know that I was awake.

We went to the library every weekend. I bought them books every chance that I had. Purchased books during every school-wide book fair. When I couldn’t actually afford to buy them more books, we would go to Wal-Mart and look through or read the books in their book section. Literacy was always around. I always try to share this love for reading with my students, as well.

What Are Wordless Picture Books

Honestly, I have to chuckle at the title of this section since the title is pretty self-explanatory. Wordless picture books are books where the story is told solely through the use of illustrations. Sidebar: Some wordless picture books do have a few words in them, but not many, and usually not on consecutive pages.

The beauty of these books is that the illustrator has to be in-tune with the context, meaning, feelings, and message that the author is trying to convey! Whew, talent upon talent! They also have to be so amazing that others are able to understand the story from the perspective of applying prior knowledge and using context clues to construct the story for themselves.

What Are the Benefits of Using Wordless Picture Books

The first thought that comes to mind when I think of teaching with wordless picture books is creativity and imagination. Every wordless image will elicit a different thought, memory, signal, idea, and story in every child that encounters them. The possibilities are endless/limitless!

Teaching with wordless picture books will deeply benefit those students whom are not yet independent readers. A student working at this level can still “read the book” even though their reading vocabulary is still developing. As you know, this helps with confidence and helps to diminish negative feelings towards reading. It also helps to cut down on the “I can’t read” dialogue that pre-reading students often like to use.

The Benefits of Teaching With Wordless Picture Books:

  • Promote creativity and imagination.
  • Increase reading comprehension
  • Develop oral language and vocabulary

  • Improve independent writing skills

  • Stregnthen observation and critical thinking skills

  • Teach and promote story elements

  • They are perfect for story retelling!
  • Your Emerging Bi-/Multilingual students will have the freedom and comfort to create stories in thier minds in their native language!!

How to Use Wordless Picture Books in Your Classroom


Wordless picture books are perfect for pre-reading! Students that are not read for independent reading, or that are just learning to read, will be able to read with confidence and a sense of success. They won't have to wait for the story to be unfolded for them, they can pick up that book and allow the words to develop in their sweet minds. This also lends itself beautifully into vocabulary acquisition and development.

Picture Reading

What greater way to develop a young imagination and to encourage visualization! The number of stories that a child can create in their mind are plentiful. Today, the characters are doing "this". Tomorrow, they can be doing "that". Wordless picture books don't have a right or wrong answer. That thought just came to mind, and it brought a smile to my face. Now, of course, the interpretation may be up to great debate. But, you can't "prove" that my story is wrong. Right?

Story Retelling

Your story retelling sessions will be on fire! What happened next, then, finally... Honestly, you may not even have time to listen to allow of the possible stories that your students can create/re-create. Without "set words" to read, your students can add as many words and details to each picture as they want. The most minute visual detail might lend itself to an entirely new story! Not only this, it's also a wonderful way to introduce or reinforce sequential order and the vocabulary that is associated with it.


Just think of the level of questions that your students can develop as they wonder, infer, and predict! Wow, higher order thinking skills at its finest! Your students won't even know that they are doing such amazing tasks.

Being asked questions that require higher order responses is another great benefit that wordless picture books bring to the table. "Who is that?", "Why did they go inside of the cave", "What will happen if they don't _______?" "What if _____?", "How would she respond to ______?", "Where would they go when _______?", or "Why do you think he didn't ______?"

Non-Verbal Cues

This post just keeps inspiring me! : ) There are non-verbal picture cues galore in wordless picture books! This reminded me of a student that I taught a few years ago that really struggled with reading other people's feelings and responses. It makes me giggle now, but at that time, the struggle was real. ha ha. But, yes, wordless picture books are a great way for students to learn how to gauge characters' feelings through facial expressions, body language, movement, and distance/proximity to others.


The level of complexity and number of stories that students can create is limitless! For the most part, there are no real right or wrong written responses when working with wordless picture books. So, allow the creativity to flow!!

A picture of Tania N. Davis (me) smiling and holding the book, Tuesday by David Wiesner, in my hands while I am sitting on the stairs.

Trust me, you can do this AND you will really enjoy the experience! The very first wordless picture book that I ever shared with my class was Tuesday by David Wiesner. I had never even seen a picture book without words in it before. I thought that it was the most interesting concept that I had come across. The idea of sharing it with a group of kindergartners was worrisome, but it was more fun and amazing than I could have expected. My students loved it!

In case you were wondering, wordless picture books ARE perfect for older students, too!!

Make an inference, tell me your prediction, and give me more details!

Wordless Picture Books List

Here is a list of wordless picture books that your students might enjoy. They are listed in no specific order.

Tuesday by David Wiesner


The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

Breakfast for Jack by Pat Schories

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

The Red Book by Barbara Lehman

Journey (Aaron Becker's Wordless Trilogy)

Quest by Aaron Becker

Return by Aaron Becker

Chalk by Bill Thomson

David Wiesner and the Art of Wordless Storytelling by Eik Kahnag

Unspoken: The Story of the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

Flotsham by David Wiesner

Flashlight by Liz Boyd

Rainstorm by Barbara Lehman

Float by Daniel Miyares

Which of these wordless picture books have you used with your students? Do you have any book suggestions that we should add to the list? Let us know in the comment section.

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Hi, I'm Tania!

I help creative and time-conscious teachers plan student-centered lessons that interest and motivate student learning so that lesson planning takes less time and is actually enjoyable! 

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