Wordless Picture Books

Do you want to stimulate thinking and metacognition in young children as well as develop oral language? Look no further than a wordless picture book!


You might be thinking, “A wordless picture book? How is that going to help kids read?” Reading must always be about constructing meaning. We cannot wait until after children learn to read words to focus on meaning and comprehension. Comprehension needs to be our goal from the very beginning. Through wordless picture books, children can practice the thinking that they will be using as they mature as readers.


Wordless picture books provide children the opportunity to think and reason about the illustrations by making inferences, making and confirming predictions and making connections to characters. Children can use the illustrations as evidence to support their thinking. Teachers can use questions such as, What do you think might happen next? How do you know? What in the illustration helps you know that? What is the character feeling? How can you tell?


Some additional benefits of using wordless picture books are that they:

  • allow students to generate stories verbally

  • give multiple opportunities to go back and “reread” illustrations to make and revise predictions

  • engage children in finding picture clues to support thinking

  • allow all children to participate in meaning making through visual experiences

  • allow children participate at their level of language proficiency (Louie & Sierchynski)

  • provide opportunities for retelling

  • help children apply knowledge of narrative structure (sense of story)

  • can be used as a springboard for writing

One book to try is Moo by David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka. While this is not a completely wordless picture book, it provides multiple opportunities for children to infer as the main character, a hilarious bovine, gets into mischief.  This book will have you and your students giggling and coming back for more.


Using a wordless picture book is a great way to introduce complex skills and topics to older children as they engage in meaningful conversations. Have conversations about the effects of bullying using Bluebird by Bob Staake (this book is a tearjerker). Start a conversation about stereotyping with The Chicken Thief by Beatrice Rodriguez.


Due to unique nature of each wordless picture book, it is important for teachers to carefully preview and plan for questions and opportunities for discussion to facilitate deep thinking.


For a list of additional wordless picture books from Reading Rockets, click here.


For a more information on developing metacognition and using wordless picture books, be sure to read Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading by Tanny McGregor.


Louie, B. & Sierschynski, J. (2015). Enhancing English Learners Language Development Using Wordless Picture Books. The Reading Teacher. 69(1), 103-111.

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Training Spotlight

1st-3rd grade educators worked together to learn engaging ways to develop number sense. Students will develop fact fluency while playing games that use their number sense strategies. By learning their facts in this way, students are not merely memorizing, but rather learning to work with numbers flexibly.  “Low achievers are often low achievers not because they know less but because they don’t use numbers flexibly – they have been set on the wrong path, often from an early age, of trying to memorize methods instead of interacting with numbers flexibly.” Jo Boaler,  Stanford University, 2009


April 8, 2019

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