Guest Commentary from Rob Robinson

July 7, 2012 – As a speech-language pathologist I use children’s picture books almost every day.  Books provide a gateway into language learning, and the more exposure children have to books the stronger the neuro-linguistic pathways will be.  All of us can probably list several children’s books that are our personal favorites. From Green Eggs and Ham  by Dr. Seuss  to Catalina Magdalina Hoopenstiener Walendiner Hogan Logan Bogan Was Her Name by Tedd Arnold, we all have a book that we can relate to and hopefully retell in our own words.  While picture books with words and a story are a great way to enhance language skills and target grammar development in children,  picture books with words can limit the imagination and spontaneous production of new ideas when a child retells the story. Hence why there is great power in the wordless picture book.

Wordless picture books are exactly what they are, picture books without words. By now you may be asking yourself the question, “How can a book without words help develop language”?  This is a great question.  The answer: When a child has enough language to tell a story of their own giving them  structured opportunities to tell the story focusing on the use of correct grammatical structure creates longer lasting neuro structures as they are building them from scratch and don’t have a pre-established base of reference. Wordless picture books allow an individual to formulate new ideas, use their own descriptive language, develop their own problems, attempts and solutions, and develop their own creative flares and linguistic patterns.

When searching for wordless picture books the search is very similar to normal children’s books, there are great one and ones that need a little bit more to make them top notch. Just as words can make or break a great children’s book the pictures can make or break a wordless book. As you search focus on pictures with lots of details. For example: if you find two books about sheep and one has a rough outline of a sheep and the other has the best illustration of a sheep that you have ever seen, go with the best illustration. This will allow the child to describe what they see instead of having to imagine the detail and also construct the language to describe it. Search for books that catch the eye and that can easily be formulated into a story. And one last tip: don’t worry about color or black and white. Color is one of the easiest things for us to imagine. Black and white pictures leave just enough to the imagination to make it interesting.

I wish you the best of luck as you endeavor on an adventure to find wordless picture books.

Robert Robinson M.S. CCC-SLP

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