An article from Laura Davies, an educational consultant
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Wordless picture books have a real value in the classroom, opening up opportunities for development in literacy and communication in a way that can be far more inclusive than written text. Wordless picture books hold infinite stories within them and are open to individual interpretation with no limits on imaginative retellings. They are accessible at all reading levels and yet, within an educational setting, lessons can be structured in such a way as to create nurturing and differentiated learning appropriate to all pupils.
I was recently sent a copy of Chalk Eagle, the latest wordless picture book to be published by one of my favourite children’s picture book publishers – Tiny Owl Books. What struck me immediately was the bold choice of palate and the consistent use of earthy tones of greens and blues. I love the way that this helped me feel transported immediately beyond the confines of my own world and steeped into the world of a child and his kinship with a beautiful soaring Eagle. The story reminded me of a childhood book whose title I cannot remember but whose images frequently come back to me, such was the power of the visual part of that story too. It made me think that many of the stories that resonate with me from my own childhood come back to me in snapshots, images from the much loved and well-thumbed pages. I very rarely remember text, but rather have strong associations with the ‘sense’ of a story and this is very often and largely visual. This is another strength of wordless picture books as they offer the reader a chance to imprint their version of a story that aligns with their own interpretation of the world around them. This also highlights what unites us, that we are all able to see something familiar in the pages of an illustrated book and the experiences of its protagonist.
For me, Chalk Eagle made me feel full of hope and as though I too were soaring alongside the child and eagle. As I read it, I thought of the many prompt points for discussion with my 3 year old daughter and my 10 year old niece, as well as with the many classrooms of primary children I work with throughout the year. Immediately there are opportunities to discuss a range of very interesting themes:
– Landscapes and habitats – Where is this story based? The colours and many of the images are evocative of vast expanses of countryside (greens, blues and the very presence of an eagle, as well as the carpet on page 1 covered with the imprint of leaves), but the title page seems to show a busy and populated town;
– Identity – Who is this child? How old is s/he (many will assume a boy, but what makes us think this? Is it just the short hair? This in itself is a fantastic stimulus for interesting discussion around gender stereotypes and the projection of identity based on images);
– Freedom – Why is the child so fascinated by the eagle? Why do they draw a picture of the eagle on the roof of their house? Are children free to roam as the eagle does (this could open discussions about childhood vs adulthood as well as how this experience can vary depending on time and place)
As I journeyed alongside the child in this book I felt so powerfully connected with their experiences of flight and dreaming of a space beyond the confines of my own immediate world. The three main characters of child, eagle and cat offer various viewpoints and prompts for stories which can be written from different angles and with different voices. One book, countless stories – what more can you ask for!
- Read a fantastic review of Chalk Eagle by Primary School Reading Leader Lesley McFarlane
- Check out five reasons your school needs Chalk Eagle
- Have a look at this stunning book trailer
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