One night at bedtime, my daughter grabbed a book I had purposefully buried in the recesses of her closet. It was a book called Big Berry, and there were maybe a handful of words in the whole book total. Because there was so little actual reading involved, I didn't think it was worth wasting time on. Bedtime stories are for boosting my baby's brain, after all!
But she loved having me read it. I was mildly stressed by the proposition — by that time of day, I was zonked out yet had to make up a narrative. Every time we paged through it, I inevitably altered the previous version of the story a little bit. I cursed the book's "author," Dan Yaccarino, for his laziness.
Turns out there's a reason for books with few or no words. A good reason.
Books without words can actually expose children to richer language than by reading traditional vocabulary-based books. A University of Waterloo study found that when parents read picture-only books to their kids, they tended to use more complex language than when they actually read traditional stories. They used more "complex talk" — rather than merely labeling an object (pointing to an apple and saying, "Apple"), they'd describe it ("What color is the apple?") and discuss it ("We ate an apple for breakfast!") and make predictions ("What do you think the baker is going to do with that apple?").
Whereas I'd thought these books were merely phoning it in, I quickly realized they were fostering a deeper style of communication between me and my kiddo.
This isn't to say my toddler and I are off words entirely — offering a range of book formats is a key recommendation from the study. But I'm definitely adding a few more wordless books to our library. Here are 10 of the most popular ones for kids.