There is no moment more magical than the first time a child reads — actually reads — a book independently. Such focus, such concentration on the text as the child decodes the printed words! This is the first step on a lifelong journey across time, space, cultures, and ideas that a love of reading will provide.
But firing the imagination is not limited to books with text. Indeed, wordless picture books may tap into more imagination, more language, more critical thinking, and more projecting of one’s self into the story. Whether illustrations are simple or lush, the reader uses them to answer so many questions, because that is the only way the story can be told: Who or what is in the picture? Where and when is this taking place? What is happening? Why is this happening? What is the problem? What are some solutions? How did the character’s actions work out? What is the difference between this picture and the one before and the one after? Did anything change? How does the character feel? What is the character thinking? How would you feel? What would you do? What will happen next? And on and on….
Wordless picture books are ideal for speech/language therapy. Just think of how many goals can be addressed by a single wordless book by letting the child take the lead in “reading” the story: describing, labeling, grammar, predicting, articulation, and fluency are just a few of the typical s/l skills that can be practiced and measured. Add to that joint attention, answering questions, turn-taking, and perspective-taking, and you’ll see that wordless picture books are ideal for working on pragmatic skills. When the child has finished “reading” the book, review it for practice in recall, retelling, and sequencing. Have a student who is weak in written language? Use wordless picture books to practice sentence and story writing. Working with very young children or children with cognitive impairments? Use the books to build receptive skills and basic concepts: Show me —. Point to —-. Where is —? What color/shape is —? He is clapping; now you clap. Imagine — all of these communication skills can be worked on, no reading required!
Wordless picture books are especially good for children who use AAC. In addition to building all of the skills detailed above, the children can use their AAC system at the single word, phrase, or full sentence levels to tell the story, answer your questions, and ask questions of their own. This builds fluency with the system as they learn how to navigate to needed core and fringe vocabulary, and helps AAC users increase their mean length of utterance.
If you Google “wordless picture books,” you’ll find a lot of “top ten” recommendations. If you want to find titles of a hundreds wordless picture books, join Goodreads.com (free), then put in this URL: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/wordless-picture-books. I guarantee you’ll find a year’s worth of books that will appeal to and be appropriate for all of the students on your caseload, regardless of age, gender, personal interests, or IEP goals. Many may be available in your school or public library. To add to your own collection, you can search local booksellers or find nearly all on Amazon.