Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Power of Being Wordless

I’ve just recently had another wonderful in-class experience that gave me some new insights into a genre of books, those without words, that I frequently use in book talking children’s literature.

The focus of this short session was solely on picture books and graphic novels containing no words.  Some of the questions the instructor, Angela Rokne, posed for consideration included:
            Who reads wordless books? 
            Why is there such a genre?
            What do wordless books offer the reader?
            Is this reading?

The discussion that followed really brought home what a reader experiences when being drawn into a story.  When the book has no words it is up to the reader to create the story, to imagine the dialogue and interpret the pictures in multiple ways depending on the reader’s own life experiences.  A wordless picture book “slows everything down and forces you to really take in the story,” as one student pointed out.

Another student became so caught up with the pictures upon opening the book that she didn’t notice the lack of words.  She was busy creating her own dialogue.  (See Leaf by Stephen Michael King (823 K5972 PIC BK)).  The benefits for struggling readers became obvious as we discovered that the focus can shift to strengths that children often have for observing the world and events around them, thus enabling them to create a story.  This may be another way to engage children whose frustration with reading is turning them away from literature and literacy.

The discussion turned to focus on the depth of some stories and how each reader can place themselves into the story just as children would.  I spoke to my own similar reaction to Shaun Tan’s The Arrival  (823 T155A FIC) a wordless, graphic novel that has so many possibilities for teaching story and reading, besides opportunities for creating your own narrative.

Here are a few other wordless picture books and graphic novels to check out:

Sticks and stones by Peter Kuper (823 K964S FIC)
Sidewalk circus by Paul Fleishchman (823 F628S4 PIC BK)
I see a song by Eric Carle (823 C92I PIC BK)
Time flies by Eric Rohmann (823 R636T PIC BK)
Ben’s Bunny trouble by Daniel Wakeman (823 W138B PIC BK)
Midsummer knight by Gregory Rogers (823 R631M PIC BK)
Bow-Wow bugs a bug by Mark Newgarden (823 N45B PIC BK)
Home by Jeannie Baker (823 B174H5 PIC BK)


rosie said...

Thank you Tammy for writing up the story of our small project. An interesting space for a student teacher may be to sit with some of the books you listed and imagine how they might bring the book to life in a classroom.
Student teachers working with older students may be surprised by the sophistication of engagement offered by wordless books.

Tammy Flanders said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I like the idea of setting up a space and highlighting books/resources (like the wordless ones) with the opportunity to browse through them. A few logistics to work out. But maybe for next year...

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