Guest Author - Mary Ann Graziani
When children read a picture book with words, the pictures are necessary in order to understand the story, and the words and pictures must be read together to understand the story. If you were to look at just the pictures or just the words separately they would not tell the same story. In wordless picture books, no words are necessary in order to understand the story. Not having words allows for more discussion because you don't have to move on quickly in order to not disturb the flow of text in the story. You will find that you will be able to spend a lot of time on each page discussing the illustrations. Not having words does not make less of a story. Most wordless picture books clearly have a plot with a definite beginning, middle, and end to them.
Wordless books promote more discussion than books with words, which leads to more interpretation, better comprehension, and they add more focus the appreciation of the details in the pictures. Wordless picture books help to support very low level reading students who are normally very hesitant to contribute to reading discussions because they don't comprehend the text. These students will be more likely to participate in discussions about the wordless book because there are no words and they will use the picture to build their comprehension skills. Wordless picture books also help develop storytelling skills in writing.
To begin using a wordless picture book, start with a pre-reading activity. Before presenting the book, make sure to study the illustrations carefully . Study the details of each picture so that you will be in a good position to open discussion with students and develop their visual interpretation skills as much as possible. Discuss the words and pictures on the front and back covers, end pages, title page, and dedication page. This provides a great introduction and opportunity for students to make their own interpretations before starting the book.
During Reading, pause after each page and discuss comments and questions from students and ask questions. Control the discussion but let the students lead the discussion. Connect the students comments with one another and probe in order to get students to think more deeply in their discussions. Ask open-ended questions that have many answers in order to encourage inference. Students view visual signs and interpret the signs when reading picture books. An example of a visual sign would be color. Color adds meaning and students make associations to the colors. For example, students can associate danger, excitement, anger, drama, and foreboding with certain colors. Ask students to look at the colors in the illustrations and explain the mood they think the author was trying to create with the colors that he chose and what associations they make with the colors in the illustrations.
After reading the book ask students questions about the story. Ask students to describe their favorite picture in the story and compare the picture to something they have seen in real life. Ask students how they thought the illustrations were made and to describe the pictures. Ask students to make connections between their own life and the illustrations in the story. Tell students to look at the last picture and ask what they think will happen next? Ask students to tell the character traits of the main character by looking at the pictures of the main character. Ask students what they thought about the story and why?
Two good wordless picture books are Flotsam and Tuesday. They are both Caldecott award winning wordless picture books by David Wiesner. Flotsam is about a boy exploring on the beach. He finds a camera that doesnít belong to anyone so he removes the film and has it developed. The pictures reveal intriguing and fantastic creatures in ocean.
Tuesday is about a bunch of frogs that rise on their lily pads one night and float across the night sky. They explore the nearby houses while people are sleeping. As morning approaches, the frogs canít float anymore and they return to their pond leaving their lily pads scattered around the street. In the morning the police find the lilly pads and wonder what happened.