Tips for Reading Wordless Books (and 10 of My Favorite Wordless Books!)

I bet you know this scenario – you check out a wordless picture book, and then you realize you’re narrating it with the skill of an iguana and you think, “HOW DO YOU EVEN READ THIS THING?!”

I remember one of my friends saying, “I hate reading wordless books because it takes so much effort on my part. With a regular picture book I can just read the words and not think about it.”

It’s true that wordless books take a little more effort. But I’m inclined to think they are worth it.

tips for reading wordless books

  1. Look through it first. I almost never read a picture book before I read it with my girls, but when it’s wordless, it really helps me out to have a basic idea where the story is going first so I don’t miss critical plot points as we go.
  2. Ask questions. I’m NOT a question asker when I read (we read the whole thing through and then talk about it afterward), but when it’s a wordless book, I ask a lot of questions. “What do you think is going to happen next?” “What’s she doing here?” “What does he think about that?”
  3. Take Your Time. I’m a super fast reader, but I like that a wordless makes me slow down and pay attention to the details. The illustrations in a good picture book add a whole extra dimension to the story, and I sometimes forget to give them more than a passing glance. I like that I’m forced to look at the illustrations more in this book.
  4. Let your child read it to you. If you have a pre-reader (or a reluctant reader), wordless books are a great way for them to experience books without stress or frustration. And I love seeing what my child notices when she’s running the show.
And. . . . to get you started, here are ten of our favorite wordless books:
wordless books

10 fantastic wordless books

journey bookJourney by Aaron Becker
Oh Journey. You really are the best picture book I’ve read in ages. Imagine if you could draw a door on your wall and then step into a magical world. There are lots of comparisons to Where the Wild Things Are and Harold and the Purple Crayon, but this one definitely earns its own place on the bookshelf.



where's walrus bookWhere’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage
This sweet book about a walrus who flees the zoo on a sleepy afternoon and keeps hiding from the zookeeper is a family favorite. (You can watch a little video trailer for it too – Ella and I have watched it probably 50 times).




rain bookRain by Peter Spier
This man is a master. We’ve had Rain since I was a very small child, and recently, we’ve discovered his Caldecott-winning Noah’s Ark.




Tuesday bookTuesday by David Wiesner
No one does wordless books like David Wiesner. This one is a Tuesday night where frogs take flight. The very realistic illustrations make a terrific juxtaposition to the goofy idea of frogs flying about on lily pads. I also love Free Fall.



wordless bookThe Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
I bought this book very shortly after it won the Caldecott and it is just such a gem. It’s such a glorious retelling of Aesop’s most famous tale.



wordless booksFox and Hen Together by Béatrice Rodriguez
Fair warning that this book is WEIRD. But it’s also hilarious and fun, and it was Ella’s absolute favorite for many weeks until we returned it to the library.


good dog carl bookGood Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day
This classic series is about a little boy and his large dog who always manage to get into trouble while the mother isn’t watching.




wave bookWave by Suzy Lee
This is a pretty short book, and it’s just perfect for a summer when you wish you were at the coast.



flora and the flamingo bookFlora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
This one ups the wordless book ante by adding flaps. The dancing flamingo and exuberant little girl who wants to dance along will definitely make you smile. (There is a Flora and the Penguin coming later this year).




red sled bookRed Sled by Lita Judge
This book isn’t TECHNICALLY wordless, but the only words it does have are the noises the animals make (which is fun to read aloud!) when they discover a sled left outside and decide to take it for a spin. Red Hat, featuring the same cast of animals, is also fab.




P.S. Rainstorm by Barbara Lehman is on my list of wordless books to read. Also, Hank Finds an Egg is a recent find and it’s charming.

And if you’d like a printable copy of this list of wordless boks that you can take to your library or screenshot on your phone for easy access, just pop in your email address below and it’ll come right to your inbox!

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  1. I love Good Dog, Carl! It's my go to baby shower gift. Her other Carl books are great as well.

  2. These are some great tips, thanks! I also struggle with wordless books and wonder if my kids will notice that I don't tell the same story each time we read it (but they never seem to mind). We also love a wordless book called "wave" and it's perfect for beach trips!

  3. I love Journey so very much. A sequel (Quest) comes out this summer and I am so very excited.

    I am not a great wordless picture book reader – if I can't figure out something to say I struggle (A Ball for Daisy was really hard for me to get through – "umm..now she is walking in the forest some more!"), but we keep trying. The boy is finally old enough to help tell the story, which helps too.

  4. Love! My kids love wordless books. The Polo books (by Regis Faller) are really good, too.

  5. I always feel like such a dummy when I try to read a wordless picture book to Forrest. And he can always tell that the story stinks, too, because he almost always gets bored and goes to choose another book before we've finished the wordless one. I guess I need some more practice 🙂

  6. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs is another lovely one. You've probably seen the video with its ethereal music. I am also a Peter Spier fan and love his Christmas book. Sorry, but the Wiesner books are a little too outrageous for me.

  7. We just got "sea of dreams" from the library today. Been really liking wordless books lately so glad you wrote about it.

  8. Do you reserve books online or do your children let you puruse around the library and look for good ones? I'm thinking I might have to start putting more children's titles on hold so I can grab them and go.

  9. Our absolute favorite wordless book is In the Town, All Year Round. We can spend hours looking at it. Chalk is another favorite. I have to second the Polo books. They are a lot of fun.

  10. Our favorites have all been mentioned already: A Ball for Daisy, Rainstorm (and The Red Book by the same author) and the Polo books. Rainstorm is my absolute favorite of these, though.

  11. My absolute favorite wordless book is Deep in the Forest by Brinton Turkel. Do you know it? The illustrations are dark and I think that is off-putting to some people, but it is absolutely a classic andd have loved introducing it to children.

  12. Goodnight Gorilla is a favorite…does it not count as wordless if there are a couple speech bubbles?

  13. I “read” the wordless picture book “Sidewalk Flowers” by myself at a bookstore recently and unexpectedly cried – a beautiful story.

  14. One of my wordless favorites is “You Can’t Take a Balloon Into The Metropolitan Museum of Art” by Jacqueline Presiis Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser. The little girl isn’t allowed to take her yellow balloon inside, so the guard ties it to the banister. A bird helps the balloon escape. The guard follows the balloon all over NY City trying to catch it. You’ll visit the sites of NY and watch the little girl view some famous artwork in the museum as the story progresses………delightful and educational!!

  15. My 4 year old loves Spencer’s New Pet by Jessie Sima so much (and so do I!). I haven’t read any of the ones on this list —so I’m putting hold requests on all of them! Thanks 🙂

  16. That is funny because while I never actually enjoy “reading” wordless picture books, I’ve also never felt pressure to make up my own dialogue. Mostly we look at the pictures and I might point out a few key things going on. Or asking, “What is he doing?” or “Isn’t that funny?” I never make up my own story mostly because I’ve never even thought of doing that. haha.

  17. I love all the Carl books, also Peter Speier. Can’t wait to read these. Note – my kids are in their late 30s to early 40s!

  18. These wordless books are good to send home and have families create a story. It’s Amazing all of the things you will learn from the families and their cultures. It’s also fun to hear all of the variety of stories.

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