Every Child Ready to Read in Michigan - July 2017

every child ready to read

Every Child Ready to Read in Michigan - July 2017

In This Issue:

This Month's Wisdom...

"You might ask, how is a child learning to read while using a wordless book? Think about the skills children need to acquire when learning to read. One very important one is “book directionality.” That is learning that in our English reading country, children need to learn to read from top to bottom and from left to right. While a child looks at the illustrations in a wordless book, they are turning pages from right to left, but their eyes are going to follow or “read” the illustrations from left to right."

~ Sue McCleaf Nespeca 


Wordless Picture Books and Their Value for Young Children

baby and dad

Though many parents reject checking out wordless books (See “Reflections” below), there is incredible value in using wordless books with young children in relation to early literacy practices. Considering the five practices, “Talk, Sing, Read, Write and Play,” wordless books are particularly beneficial for the “Talking” and “Reading” practices. Let’s look at the less obvious one first --- “Reading”.  You might ask, how is a child learning to read while using a wordless book? Think about the skills children need to acquire when learning to read. One very important one is “book directionality.” That is learning that in our English reading country, children need to learn to read from top to bottom and from left to right. While a child looks at the illustrations in a wordless book, they are turning pages from right to left, but their eyes are going to follow or “read” the illustrations from left to right. So, they are acquiring skills of book directionality, and are “reading” the illustrations.

“Talking” in relation to wordless books is much more obvious. When telling the story, young children are developing visual literacy skills by interpreting the images and creating a story structure. By using picture clues, they can comprehend what they are seeing. Wordless books help children develop characterization and add narration. Sequencing is important when learning to read, and wordless books can help with that concept. They have become a storyteller, using their imagination and creativity when developing their story. Also with retellings, the story can be changed or enhanced, which also allows for great creativity.  Finally, by choosing wordless books by different illustrators, children are learning about different art styles, which might even serve as an inspiration for children to create their own art.

What are some activities parents can do after sharing wordless picture books with their young children? They can dictate the text for the parent to write, creating their own personal telling for that book. Or, parents can record the child telling the story in his/her own words. If grandparents or adult friends are willing, children can share their tellings with others. And, by using wordless books and finding out how much fun they are to share, parents and children might want to create their own original wordless books.

Here are some of my favorite wordless books for very young children:

Becker, Aaron, Journey. Candlewick, 2013.

Carle, Eric. Do You Want to Be My Friend?  HarperCollins, 1971.

Cole, Henry. Spot, the Cat. Little Simon, 2016.

Colon, Raul. Draw! Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Cooper, Elisha. Beaver is Lost. Schwartz & Wade, 2010.

Day, Alexandra. Carl’s Birthday. Farrar Straus Giroux, 1995. (Several others)

Fleischman, Paul. Sidewalk Circus. Candlewick, 2004.

Frazee, Marla. The Farmer and the Clown. Beach Lane, 2014.

Idle, Molly. Flora and the Flamingo. Chronicle, 2013. Also, Flora and the Penguin, 2014.

Lee, Suzy. Wave. Chronicle, 2008.

Lehman, Barbara. Trainstop. Houghton Mifflin, 2008. (Several others)

Mayer, Mercer. A Boy, A Dog, A Frog. Dial, 2003.

McCully, Emily. Four Hungry Kittens. Dial, 2001.

McPhail, David. Water Boy. Abrams, 2007.

Miyares, Daniel. Float. Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Raschka, Chris. A Ball for Daisy. Schwartz & Wade, 2011.

Schories, Pat. Jack and the Missing Piece. Front Street, 2004. (Several others)

Sullivan, Mary. Ball.  HMH, 2013. (ONE WORD)

Thomson, Bill. Chalk. Marshall Cavendish, 2010.

Varon, Sara. Chicken and Cat Clean Up. Scholastic, 2008.

Wiesner, David. Mr. Wuffles.  Clarion, 2013.


It is hard to talk about wordless books without mentioning the concept of “Going on a Picture Walk.” This is a great way for a parent to have a conversation with their child about a book. It is called a “picture walk” because the parent and child “walk” through the pictures in the book without reading the words. Thus, books that are wordless lend themselves well to “Going on a Picture Walk.”

Here are tips for parents when conducting a picture walk with their child with a wordless book:

  • Hold the book so the child can see the cover. Read the title and author of the book aloud.
  • Describe the illustration on the cover and ask your child what he/she thinks the story is about.
  • Tell your child that this book just has pictures, and that you are going to look at the pictures and try to guess what’s happening in the story.
  • Open to the first page of the story and ask the child to describe what is happening on the page, just as you did when you described the cover illustration. Ask the child about the characters and ask him/her to predict what might happen to them. Encourage her/him to speak in sentences and to give as many details as possible, referring to the characters, the setting (place), and the story events.
  • Continue in this manner, until there is only one page left in the book.
  • Have the child predict how the book will end.

Advantages of a Picture Walk

  •  Teaches a child to take turns in order to have a conversation.
  • Helps children become familiar with how books work and are organized.
  • Gives parents a chance to introduce new words and what they mean.
  • Provides opportunities to rephrase what the child says so he or she can learn more language.
  • Extends conversations to help children learn more about something. 

Recommended Websites On Using Wordless Picture Books & Doing a Picture Walk

boy with mom

Here are two sites that highlight the benefits of using wordless books with preschoolers, and two that highlight the benefits of doing a picture book walk.

1. Reading Rockets

I have shared articles from Reading Rockets previously as they are a great site on topics related to early literacy and reading. This article is told from a parent’s perspective and describes steps the parent can take to share a wordless book with his/her child. One of my favorite tips is “Recognize that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to read a wordless book.”

2.Playful Learning

The author of this article states that she feels wordless books are even more difficult to read than other picture books. She lists positives to sharing wordless books and also a list of her favorite wordless books.

3. Reading To Kids

Tips for conducting a picture walk are given with the approach of asking 5 “w’s” and 1 “h.”

"What is going on here?" "Who is this?" "Why does the character look so excited?" "When is this story taking place?" "Where did the character just come from?" "How do you think the story is going to end?"

4. Teach Preschool

This offers a step-by-step guide on how to do a picture walk with preschoolers and includes photos of a child actually doing a picture walk. This would make a nice handout if you need one on picture walks. 

New Books of the Month


The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  Jerry Pinkney. Little Brown, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-316-34157-8. $17.99.

Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney never misses with his lushly illustrated retellings of well-known folk tales. This particular tale many families do not share, for they feel it is too violent. Pinkney removes some of the violence at the end without sanitizing the story. In fact, if you study the end papers at the beginning of the book, and compare them to the end papers at the back of the book, you will see that the troll actually gains some empathy and changes riverbanks with the goats so that they can inhabit the grassy hillsides. Also, a large fish almost gives the troll his comeuppance, but decides the troll was too sour and green to make a tasty meal. Otherwise, it is the original tale through and through with lots of room for child participation with the standard “Trip, traps,” and the repeated phrase “I’m gonna gobble you up!” Some librarians will not like the one fold-out page but hey--- he is the biggest billy goat so Pinkney needed room to illustrate him!


Found Dogs. Erica Sirotich. Dial, 2017.
ISBN:  978-0-399-18641-7. $16.99.

Here is a counting book with a message, but a good one, on how great it is to adopt dogs from a pound. One thing I l always look for in counting books is – how easily can you count the objects? Nothing frustrates me more than a counting book for young children where it is difficult to find the objects or to count them. That is just plain confusing to a child learning to count. What raises this book a step above other counting books is that it is a “count up to” and “countdown to” book (to the number 10) and it is done in rhyme (great for phonological awareness). The illustrations are bright and colorful and very child friendly. And how can you not feel good after every dog has found its own family? If only it would be that way in the real world. 

I Saw Anaconda. Jane Clarke & Emma Dodd. Nosy Crow, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-7636-9336-7. $14.99.

Here is a book you will definitely want for storytime, but alas, it will not circulate well in a library collection. So, order a copy and keep for your storytelling shelf! The cumulative rhyme follows the pattern of “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” with its rhyme being “I saw Anaconda swallow a tick… It made her tummy hop and kick! Will she be sick?” To see each unfortunate creature who is swallowed, you must lift a flap OR flaps, or open a two-page foldout section. In addition, there are two pop-up pages, with the last being very dramatic! Rhyming words and phonological awareness opportunities are in abundance, and the text can even be sung to the familiar tune. The Amazon rain forest adds to the setting and provides some unique characters --- a gator, stork, piranha, frog, skink, and of course, that tick. This will be one that after sharing in story time, kids will say, “Read it again!” 




I remember one library I worked at where the children’s services desk was right next to the picture book section. I cannot tell you how many times I saw parents, who were choosing books along with their preschool children say, “Put that book back. It doesn’t have any words in it,” when their child picked out a wordless book. Never did I hear a parent say “Oh – a wordless book – great!” I guess parents have no idea all the ways they can use a wordless book with their preschooler, nor the value of that experience. So, I guess that is our role. How can we help parents realize how they can share wordless books, and in what way (that is not didactic) can we explain the importance of this experience? Can we do this within a story time program? Have you ever shared a wordless book in storytime, and how do you do that, since being able to see the illustrations close up is rather crucial? Definitely some questions to ponder!