Few Words, Big Impact

Eliza Clark
August 22, 2009

Having a child is in many ways the ultimate creative act, but it's not one that ever lets us rest on our laurels. Indeed, being a parent regularly requires us to rise to new heights of creative expression. We sing, we dance, we act, we draw, and, of course, we read aloud. But if you think "doing the voices" is tricky, prepare yourselves, dear friends, for the next challenge: making up stories.

As soon as your children get wind of the fact that you not only can read stories but also have the amazing ability to make up stories in your head, you'll never hear the end of it. "Tell a story! Tell a story!" will be the cry you can’t escape. You'll hear it in the car, in the waiting room, on walks, at bedtime, and, indeed, at any moment of the day that, in your children’s opinion, needs livening. And you'll be furrowing your brow, scratching your head, wracking your brain and thinking, I wasn't prepared for this!

But as with so many of the unexpected demands our children make on us, this one comes with unexpected rewards. By asking us to close the books for a while, our children show us, once again, the virtues of simplification. When one thing is taken away, something else is given room to grow -- in this case the art of storytelling, and an unmediated imaginative connection between parent and child.

Of course, in their brilliance, a number of children's book creators figured all this out before we did and have given us just what we need to practice our storytelling skills: wordless picture books. At first glance, a book without words may seem a bit of a disappointment (how will this help us get through bedtime?). But creating a narrative from the images offered or talking with our kids about the story behind the pictures really can yield a quite different than usual and, at times, more satisfying story hour simply because we’ve been required to tap our own creative resources.

In the absence of words to read, something else can flourish too, and that, quite simply, is time to look. The creators of the wordless books we love are all extraordinary artists whose pictures are well worth gazing at. So take a look at these lovely volumes, study their images with your child, and be inspired to spin tales together!

Wave by Suzy Lee






Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu







Tuesday and Flotsam by David Weisner






The Red Book by Barbard Lehman






Truck by Donald Crews

From the Parents

  • Parent # 1

    "Flotsom" is also good.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 2

    We'll have to check that one out! Thanks for the suggestion, Liz.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 3

    Another great one is "Robot Dreams" by Sara Varon

    over a year ago


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