When you think about reading with a child, chances are you imagine reading the words on the page out loud while the child looks at the pictures. But what would you do if there were no words in the book to read?
A good picture book will tell most, if not all, of the story through the photos or illustrations. By describing the things that you see in the pictures, you can bring the story to life. You may not think you are a better storyteller than the author or illustrator, but you know your child better than anyone, so you can add another level to the book that will appeal more to your child.
Try giving the characters the same names as family members and friends, and relate the story to your child’s own experiences. Take turns telling the story to each other, or have your child play the part of the main character and explain what they are doing, or guess what they would be thinking or saying.
If your child doesn’t feel like telling a story, maybe they would rather talk about the pictures. You might be surprised by what they notice and what draws their attention. I had a great time playing I-spy games with my niece; she loved having me guess which tiny obscure item on a page she was thinking of. So, even without a story, there are lots of opportunities to explore all kinds of ideas and language.
Speaking of language, this is a perfect way to share a book that is written in a language that you can’t read. It’s also great for times when the book is much wordier than you or your child’s patience will tolerate, or even if you just don’t like how it’s written. Don’t be afraid to ignore the words on the page and tell your own story, in your own words.
So please, go and find yourself a nice picture book to read, and tell me how you liked it. I will even give you a short list of wordless books to try, in case you don’t know where to start:
- Deep in the Forest by Brinton Turkle
- The Chicken Thief by Béatrice Rodriguez
- Chalk by Bill Thomson
Let me know how you and your children like them. Or how it went over in your book club. Don’t let the word count fool you; good picture books have something for everyone.