| Oct 04, 2007

October 2007 - Early Literacy

Back toHome

Early Literacy - October 2007 Wordless, but not speechlessby Susan Ramsay, Early Literacy Specialist, HFL&A

“Como se dice…?” “How do you say…?” With two young gentlemen from Canada World Youth living with our family for a few months, this has become a common Spanish phrase in our household. I am learning much from Ian and Liusbel, who come to us from Cape Breton and Cuba respectively. It’s an amazing opportunity for our family, even though communication with each another is a complicated mixture of broken English and Spanish, gestures, facial expressions and picture drawing. Photos have also become a significant tool for describing people and activities to one another. Our experiences with these young people have highlighted the merit of using pictures to learn language and literacy.


Among children, books with pictures and no words play a valuable role in helping them learn vocabulary, sentence and story structure. Meaning is conveyed through images only. But though these books are wordless, they are far from speechless. Children, freed from any anxiety about reading the text correctly, find that the book’s images prompt them to talk, question and explain. Children’s vocabulary and comprehension skills increase greatly when wordless books are used to engage children in dialogue about the objects and ideas they see in the story.

Wordless books help young children “read” before they learn how to decode print. Wordless books demonstrates to children that ideas can be represented visually and that these meaningful pictorial ideas follow a sequence from left to right, page by page. Through illustration, children discover that stories recorded in books have a beginning, middle and end.

Wordless books used with older children can spark storytelling in their first language or a language they are learning. The pictures inspire creative writing, enabling children to become the author of a book that is already illustrated.

The most captivating and well-constructed wordless books offer good visual detail and complexity of plot. Some wordless books are so well crafted that they appeal to a range of ages from toddlers to school age children, though in different ways as they grow and mature.

“Rosie’s Walk” by Hazel Hutchins, “The Snowman” by Raymond Briggs, and “Pancakes for Breakfast” by Tomie de Paola are a few wordless books that have delighted children for years. Newer titles such as “Dinosaur” by Peter Sis and “The Red Book” by Barbara Lehman are also engaging books for many children.

Como se dice ‘great children’s books’? In Spanish, or any language in the world, there is one answer that translates very well - stories without words.

Susan Ramsay is the Early Literacy Specialist for Hastings, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington. You can contact her at 613-354-6318 (ext 32)

Support local
independant journalism by becoming a patron of the Frontenac News.