Tiny Owl recently launched a campaign to celebrate the importance and beauty of wordless picture books. We wanted to investigate some intriguing questions – why are wordless picture books important? Do they fill a gap that books with words can’t fill? Are their messages more universal? Do they aid literacy? Or is it just that they’re so beautiful to look at?
We contacted experts in all kinds of areas of the book industry, from authors and illustrators to booksellers and journalists, as well as teachers and parents, to ask them for their thoughts. They were given this question:
Wordless picture books are becoming more popular with people of all ages. Why do you think this is?
Here are four more responses, from Sita Brahmachari, Paul Kidby, Camille Whitcher, and Jo Cummins.
- Find previous responses to our question here, here, here and here.
- Watch Elizabeth Laird’s interview.
Wordless books empower new storytellers
Wordless picture books open storytelling worlds for readers of all ages, abilities and languages. Wordless picture books are like a story hearth and those gathered around their glowing, shape morphing, imagination sparking light, are empowered to become new storytellers.
* Sita Brahmachari is a Waterstones Award-winning children’s author, theatre maker and educationalist, and an Amnesty Ambassador upholding the rights of young people.
Art is an inclusive language that can be shared without prejudice
As an illustrator whose job is to help enrich a story with imagery I am pleased that wordless picture books are increasing in popularity. This medium reaches across the barriers that language can create and they are fully inclusive regardless of nationality and literary ability. Meaningful stories can be shared and enjoyed together through illustrated story telling, thereby creating a response that is uniquely personal. One of my favourite wordless picture books is the brilliant The Arrival by Shaun Tan, this book follows the journey of a traveller to a foreign land where everything is strange and unknown to him. We have all felt like this at times in our lives and we can relate to the wordless character with empathy. Art is an inclusive language that can be shared without prejudice and I view it as one of our most valuable tools to help connect society.
Paul Kidby is an illustrator, artist & sculptor, best known for his artwork for Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.
Wordless books encourage dialogue between reader and child
I love silent books myself. I think it gives the reader more scope into creating the story for themselves. A way for them to interpret what is happening in the images rather than be told exactly what is happening. If a parent/older person is ‘reading’ a silent book to a young child, I think it encourages more interaction…promoting dialogue and discussion between reader and child.
Camille Whitcher is an author and illustrator, Winner of the Stratford-Salariya Children’s Picture Book Prize 2017.
So many gorgeous books!
Wordless books are brilliant because they rely on your ability to read and interpret pictures not words – reading level and first language are no barrier to the enjoyment and understanding of the story. There are so many gorgeous books open to explore and enjoy! From a teaching perspective, some of the best ‘book talk’ I’ve had with pupils has centred around a wordless illustration. I’ve often been bowled over by the levels of inference and perceptiveness of some of my less confident readers. I also love the fact that pupils can create their own individual narratives to go with the pictures.
Jo Cummins is a book blogger, teacher, and mum – on a mission to convert children to the wonders of reading.
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