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 Nazli Tahvili, Carolyn Clark, Caroline Fielding and Darya Shnykina.
Stay tuned for more thoughts soon!
- Find previous responses to our question here, here, here and here.
- Watch Elizabeth Laird’s interview.
We all learn to read pictures before we learn to read alphabets
In the current age, everyone is constantly after faster access to data. This data, since it is quickly acquired, is also usually quickly forgotten. A wordless book can be an invitation for us to connect with the content of the book on a deeper level, so as to understand and remember it better.
Wordless books are often simple, yet fun and thought-provoking at the same time. Their mechanisms resemble that of a game, such as ‘see and say’, or ‘guess who’.
Breaking habits: An audience who has always been the reader or the listener of stories will find themselves in a whole new world with picture books, where their roles are different. In this new world, they can be the author of their own personal story on top of the story of the book itself. Sharing the author’s authority like this can feel very much like an enjoyable game. Any reader, regardless of what languages they may speak, can enjoy picture books, because we all learn to read pictures before we learn to read alphabets. If we look at history, we will see that our ancestors used pictures to describe ideas, meanings and stories, pictures that came long before letters and words; words which are in themselves abstracted representations of pictures.
Nazli Tahvili is an Iranian illustrator. She is currently working on an upcoming title to be published by Tiny Owl.
Wordless books start conversations
At Springboard for Children we value wordless picture books as we work with children who struggle with the reading process. As soon as they see that there are no words in a book they can relax and enjoy handling and talking about the book without the stress of having to decode the words on the page. Wordless books start conversations, especially books with high quality illustrations. Children question, comment and relate the illustrations to their own experience. ‘ Booktalk’ between adult and child can be rewarding for both. A necessary skill for being successfully literate is to have a good vocabulary, books without words promote generating words and clarifying their meanings. So useful! Great books Tiny Owl.
Carolyn Clarke is Head of Educational Development at Springboard for Children, an organisation dedicated to improving children’s literacy.
Great prompts to develop creative thinking
Wordless picturebooks are wonderful because they are accessible to all ages & speakers of all languages (or none). They are great to use as prompts to develop creative thinking, without literacy being a barrier. They’re perfect for cross-generational reading & to promote understanding of different cultures & (sometimes very challenging) issues. They are also, often, beautiful pieces of art to pore over.
Caroline Fielding is a school librarian and a judge for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals.
Art is a truly amazing gift
We gave words a great power in our lives, sometimes it even feels as a kind of obsession. And I think it’s important to learn to express our feelings and ideas in a speechless way. To understand each other in silence, try to read with our heart and soul. For me it seems as a truly amazing and great gift, that art can make.
Darya Shnykina is an illustrator based in Moscow. She recently won the annual Book Illustration Competition 2017, run by House of Illustration and Folio Society.
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