I’m a huge fan of wordless picture books.

These stories are a blueprint for play.  Although the illustrations on the page can guide kids, there is no right or wrong way to “read” the book.  Happily our kids are given permission to  interpret the book from their own imagination.

In my classes with Child’s Play NY, we we are constantly using wordless picture books to get kids actively telling stories. Moreover, the themes in these picture books are often incredibly profound, strengthening empathy and illustrating kindness and imagination in a way that other books can’t do.  Even if you are reading chapter books with your child, try adding in a wordless picture book to your nightly routine for a new dimension of conversation and literacy-building.

Watch this video to see wordless picture books in action, as they inspire connection and a general love of literature.  My cute toddler friends are able to tell a story to me, and to each other.  Watch out for a new word from me: “Bushkadodo” – as well as cogent advice from my 2-year-old buddy about what frogs really say.

Additionally, this video features a profound weigh-in from collaborator, Paula Zamora Gonzalez, the Lower School Librarian at Friends Seminary School in Manhattan.  Paula speaks about the importance of involving wordless picture books in your child’s repertoire of books they enjoy.   Although Friends Seminary is one of the schools that Child’s Play NY works with during the school year, I actually met Paula at the Women’s March in Washington DC.   As we walked (and stood) together for hours, we spoke about civil liberties, women’s rights and the best picture books for kids.  We hit it off so much that I was determined to have her weigh-in on my videos, above all, so that we could all learn more from her passionate knowledge about children’s literature.

I love wordless picture books because they inspire..


Wordless picture books gets kids thinking about sequence and story structure.  As you talk about the illustrations, you boost vocabulary too.  Since kids are already fluent in a visual language, they are able to apply that mastery directly to books, without the fear of not being able to accurately read.


You, and especially your kids, can play around with voices, sounds and dialogue in a way that can tickle their funny bone.  Who doesn’t need an excuse to laugh these days? Take your playing to the next level and improvise from the story for even more goofy glee.


Make silly sounds, invent your own dialogue, create a sub-plot for the characters.  Kids get empowered to go out on a limb, and they strengthen their imaginative muscles.   Find tips on how to playfully read here.


Reading wordless books is more of a dialogue with you and your child. As you read, make conversations and connections that are specific to your family and bring you closer together.


Wordless picture books are a great way to boost bonding time with your family.  Here are some more tips to get cozy and use reading as a way to connect with your children.


So much of the time we are telling our kids what to do, how to behave, and, especially what the words on the page are.  When we hand them a wordless book, we are putting ourselves on equal footing with them, and letting them have some beautiful, and well deserved, control.


It is not necessarily “easy” to sit down with a wordless picture book.  In fact, it actually requires both parents and kids to work hard.   Rather than just accepting what the text says and turning the pages, it forces a conversation. However, this back-and-forth, while it requires a mindfulness, is a fantastic way to put in effort with your children, and to show them the potential of being a story-detective.  You can ask questions about what your child sees and help them interpret what is going on and even deduce what will come next.

Questions to Ask Your Child As You Read…

  • What sound does that make?
  • Can you make up a name for that character?
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • What’s going on over there?
  • If you could be one of those characters, who would you be?
  • Which one of these would be your friend?
  • How would you help that character?


Take Your Reading To the Next Level


  • Kids can play DJ and match the book with a soundscape that fits its theme
  • Write out the dialogue and turn it into a play.
  • Encourage your child to narrate the book and write each page out on a sticky note.
  • Take a page or a moment that your child loves and go deeply into it, acting it out.
  • Add an illustration at the end of the book for “what comes next?”
  • Draw a picture that would go at the front of the book for “what happened before?”

My Favorite Wordless Picture Books


picture books
By David Wiesner.  On an extraordinary Tuesday, frogs are airborne on their lily pads and anything is possible.  (This is the book I’m reading in the video above with my little friend!)


picture books flotsam
by David Wiesner.  When an inquisitive boy finds an old-fashioned camera at the beach, it opens a portal into fantastical marine adventures.


picture books, journey
By Aaron Becker.  A girl draws a door that leads to an enchanted world, and continues to create magic with her marker, making flying balloons and carpets until she is captured by a sinister emperor.  Her bravery and kindness set her free.


picture books, quest
By Aaron Becker.  In this sequel to Journey, two children are on a quest to rescue a kingdom from darkness.  They use magical markers to adventure through oceans, jungles and the air, in order to save the land.

Mr Wuffles

picture books, mr wuffles
By David Weisner. When a cat finds a spaceship of actual – tiny – aliens to bat around, the aliens seek refuge behind a radiator and make friends with the bugs who live there!  A fanciful story about the magic of communication and unlikely friendship.

Hank Finds an Egg

picture books, hank finds an egg
By Rebecca Dudley. When Hank finds an egg in the woods, he tries everything he can to return it to it’s nest.  A touching story of collaboration, kindness and persistence.

The Red Book

picture books, red book
By Barbara Lehman.  When a girl opens a red book, she is transported across oceans and continents where a new friend is waiting, reading the same red book!

The Lion and the Mouse

the lion and the mouse, wordless picture books
By Jerry Pinkney.  An inspiring tale of kindness (with stunning illustrations of the African Serengeti) based on Aesop’s famous tale of the unlikely friendship between lion and mouse.


pool, wordless picture books
By Jihyeon Lee. When two shy children meet at a crowded pool, they dive below the surface and are greeted by awe-inspiring and fantastical aquatic creatures.

The Farmer and the Clown

By Marla Frazee.  An unlikely friendship evolves between a little boy clown and a kind farmer when the boy falls out of his circus train.  A luminous story that taps into our fear of the unknown, change and childhood.

The Lion and the Bird

Lion and the Bird, picture books
By Marianne Dubuc.  When a lion finds a wounded bird, he nurses her back to health and a beautiful friendship emerges.  A story that celebrates loyalty and honors loneliness as well.

Wordless picture books are a great way to allow kids to master storytelling, playfully. As they “read”, they are working to interpret the story while they are concocting their own text.  In doing so, they become active participants in their own literacy.  At the same time, they are growing their confidence and strengthening their bond with you!
What are your favorite wordless picture books?

How do you “play” with your books?

Chime in below to share.
Thanks for reading and watching!

Certain images and/or photos on this page are the copyrighted property of 123RF.com, its contributors or its licensed partners and are being used with permission under the relevant license. These images and/or photos may not be copied or downloaded without permission from 123RF.com.