Wordless Picturebooks & the Case for Visual Literacy
by Kristina Jean Lareau
It happens all the time in the children’s library: parents and teachers searching for chapter books at a specific reading level for their elementary-age children. However, we get so caught up in teaching our children traditional literacy, that we often neglect their visual literacy skills, which are increasingly important in our world of screens and images.
Wordless picturebooks offer readers the opportunity to “read” and interpret stories, gather and assign meaning and create the motivations of the characters on the page. They can appeal to the visual interest of all ages — inspiring toddlers and preschoolers to imagine and create stories, and create their own dialogue and narration.
Wordless picturebooks can appeal to the elementary-age students by examining motivation and intent of the illustrators, the use of color and line, the use of movement, and ascribe meaning to the intentional details presented by the author/illustrator. So next time you’re at the library, grab a picturebook alongside that text-filled chapter book.
Shadow by Suzy Lee
This wordless adventure of imagination, shadow and light begins on the front endpapers with a “click” of a light to illuminate a garage or storage area. The young protagonist is introduced on the following title page and, without realizing it, we are two spreads into the story. Several threads are woven together throughout this shadow story — a reality of the protagonist playing, the shadow of play and possibility, and the yellow of imagination that moves from play and shadow into a new world of story.
Waltz of the Snowflakes by Elly MacKay
With delicate papercuts, pen and ink and watercolors, this picturebook follows a grandmother and her reluctant young granddaughter to a colorful performance of the Nutcracker. Watched by the girl and the boy seated next to her from the sepia colored and black and white balcony, two stories unfold simultaneously. MacKay’s illustrations are photographs of her papercuts in light-box dioramas, giving the images depth and dimension.
That Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares
Rendered in ink and watercolors, this nearly wordless picturebook tells the story of a boy and a girl who develop a friendship through the creation of a treehouse. Miyares slowly introduces the warmth of the color yellow as their friendship develops without the need for any words.
Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio
This wordless picturebook almost feels like a short film of a crocodile getting ready for, and commuting to, work. Full of fantastic details rendered in ink and watercolor, this story appeals to children interested in finding those details and discovering where the crocodile is going.
Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle
This second wordless book about Flora and her bird friends (preceded by Flora and the Flamingo and followed by Flora and the Peacock), displays dynamic movement and expression as the reader follows Flora’s ice skating from page to page. Flora interacts with the Penguin and their interactions are mirrored by fish underneath the ice. Sweet and full of expression.
Journey by Aaron Becker
Bored and lonely, a girl creates her own imaginative world that feels like a cross between Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. This 2014 Caldecott Honor book is the first of a wordless picturebook trilogy (followed by Quest and Return). This imaginative fantasy rendered in watercolor, with masterful use of color, has adventure, danger, magic and heart.
Events at the Ridgefield Library
Ridgefield Library offers the following ongoing programs:
- Storytime (ages 0-5 w/caregiver, no registration) on Mondays and Saturdays, 10:30 a.m.
- Mother Goose (ages 1-2 w/caregiver, no registration) on Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.
- Baby & Me (ages 0-1 w/caregiver, no registration) on Wednesdays, noon.
- Time for 3s & 4s (ages 3-4 w/caregiver, no registration) on Thursdays, 2 p.m.
- Friday Flicks (ages 2 and up w/caregiver) on Fridays, 11 a.m.
- Scrabble Club every Tuesday, 6 p.m.
- LEGO® Challenge (grades K-5) the first Wednesday of the month, 4:30 p.m.
- Family Game Day the fourth Saturday of the month, 2-4 p.m.
- Potterheads Book Club (registration) the third Thursday of the month, 4:30 p.m.
- Bookworms Book Club (grades 2-4, registration) last Wednesday of the month, 4:30 p.m.
- Bubble Talk Graphic Novels Book Club (grades 3-5, registration) last Thursday of the month, 4:30 p.m.
Other special weekly and monthly programs, including sewing classes, LEGO Robotics, yoga, family concerts, music classes and STEAM programs are listed at www.ridgefieldlibrary.org.
The Ridgefield Library is located at 472 Main Street. To register for programs, or for more information, call 203-438-2282.
Kristina Jean Lareau is the Head of Children’s Services at the Ridgefield Library.