The most straightforward answer to the above question is that wordless pictures books are books that tell a story using pictures and not words. However, wordless books are actually not entirely wordless! For starters, wordless books contain words in the title, on the back cover and sometimes as part of the illustration. Moreover, some books categorized under wordless books are actually “nearly wordless,” which means that they contain a few words or short phrases throughout the book. The thing that perhaps best defines the wordless book genre is that these books rely heavily on images to tell you something, whether that’s a narrative or a concept such as “colors” or “farm animals.”
Wordless books come in many different shapes, sizes and types. The most common types of wordless books are:
- Concept books
Concept books are perhaps one of the best known types of wordless books out there. These are books made up of simple illustrations that relate directly to a concept the book is introducing. For example, you may have a book about colors, animals, shapes, etc… Concept books are most often founds as part of an infant’s first collection of books.
- Thematic books
Thematic books are slightly more complicated wordless books that deal with themes such as “life in the city”, “changing seasons,” “ocean life,” etc… They may contain a storyline or may be a collection of related images tied together by the theme of the book. Thematic books serve a wide range of ages, and you may find them great to use with older kids who are verbal enough to participate in a back and forth about the theme.
- Visual game books
Visual game books are another fairly common category of wordless books. They are frequently used by both young children as well as older kids because their interactive nature invites a lot of participation and creativity from little readers. Visual game books might contain a narrative, or, like concept books, might simply introduce an idea or theme. Lift-the-flap books and find-the-item (search) books are popular kinds of visual game books.
- Narrative story books
Narrative story books are those with a clear storyline told through pictures. Through exposure to narrative storybooks, children invent their own stories and therefore learn about sequence of events as well as about the conventions of storytelling. They are especially wonderful for children who are verbal, but who have not yet learned how to read or are just beginning to learn. They make excellent use of a child’s existing verbal reserve and are a great way to boost a child’s confidence and love of books.
Wordless books rely heavily on the readers’ efforts, imagination and vocabulary reserves in order to come to life. The storytelling possibilities are endless! They also invite conversation between parents and children, making them a great tool to instill an association of warmth and connection with books. And because they come in all shapes and types, you can easily find a wordless book that fits your child’s age, level and needs.