Arts | Family Fun | Preschool | Ages 3–5

Stories Without Words: Exploring Books with Preschoolers

Sea Turtles in Flotsam by David WeisnerLearning to read was the best thing that ever happened to me. Books were journeys, friends and a feed bag for knowledge.

When I became a parent, the thing I most looked forward to was getting to develop a reader. Before my daughter could even sit up I would lie on the floor with her and read to her. Her eyes would brighten and she’d kick her legs so hard that she’d pant.

Classics like Go Dog Go and Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb made her squeal with delight. I spent hours reading to her at an age (2 months) when most people assume “it’s not important yet” to read to a child. None of this was in the name of hothousing her into Harvard. I just wanted her to love books.

At the library I stumbled across a cool genre of children’s books that I didn’t know existed: stories without words. Although many books for babies are just pictures, these books went beyond decorative into outright surrealism. They told fanciful stories that were more fun, sophisticated, challenging and interesting to explore than the majority of children’s books.

Part of what makes these books compelling is that, without words to tell you what’s going on, you and your child get to flesh out the story together and imagine alternative story lines. Engaging with books this way helps a child build important interpretation skills. Many of these wordless stories also expose children to sophisticated time shifts and alternative worlds. A skillful artist and storyteller can create a wordless story so multifaceted that a child will return to it again and again.

Here is a list of some of our favorite wordless stories, all of which we found at the library.

Next: "Polo" books by Régis Faller

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