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Italian illustrator Laura Bellini‘s desk

By Samantha Brown*

In 2012 the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) had a mission. A small Italian island called Lampedusa needed a library. But not any kind of library – this one was to be full of wordless books. The aim? To support refugee children arriving on the island and from the local community through the act of shared reading.


A collection of over 100 books was selected by IBBY National sections and “Silent Books, from the world to Lampedusa and back” was born. This collection of books is unique because of the power they give to readers. They free the imaginations of readers to create, adapt and tell their own stories through the pictures on the page.


IBBY identified another important benefit of wordless picture books when coming up with their program – they’re universal. Readers of all ages, reading levels and nationalities can enjoy the same book at the same time. Art is a universal language and the illustrations in wordless picture books unite readers in a way that language-based books just can’t.


Clown by Quentin Blake

Wordless picture books are especially important for children because it requires them to engage and think about the story the illustrations are conveying. Having children then put this story in their own words carries on the art of storytelling and can promote literacy and improve comprehension skills.


The appeal of storytelling is worldwide. How many young readers dream of becoming writers? Perhaps that’s why wordless picture books are so important and so universal. They allow everyone to be their own writer or storyteller and introduce children to the power of their own imagination.

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