Reading Wordless Picture Books To Children Helps Them Learn More
April 30, 2013

Kids Learn More From Wordless Picture Books Than Picture-Vocabulary Books

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Children hear more complex language from parents when they read a storybook with only pictures compared with a picture-vocabulary book, according to a new study published the latest issue of the journal First Language.

“Too often, parents dismiss picture storybooks, especially when they are wordless, as not real reading or just for fun,” said the study´s author, Daniela O´Neill, Professor of Psychology at the University of Waterloo in Canada.

“But these findings show that reading picture storybooks with kids exposes them to the kind of talk that is really important for children to hear, especially as they transition to school.”

O´Neill and her team recorded 25 mothers while they read to their toddlers from both a wordless picture storybook and a vocabulary book with pictures.

“What we found was that moms in our study significantly more frequently used forms of complex talk when reading the picture storybook to their child than the picture vocabulary book,” said O´Neill.

The researchers were particularly interested in examining the language mothers use when reading both wordless picture storybooks and picture vocabulary books to see if parents provided extra information to children.

“When reading the picture story, we would hear moms say things such as 'where do you think the squirrel is going to go?' or 'we saw a squirrel this morning in the backyard.' But we didn´t hear this kind of complex talk as often with vocabulary books, where mentioning just the name of the animal, for example, was more common," said O´Neill.

The results of the study are relevant to both parents and teachers because vocabulary books are often marketed as being more educational.

"Books of all kinds can build children´s language and literacy skills, but they do so perhaps in different ways," O'Neill said.

"It´s exciting to find that even short wordless picture books provide children with exposure to the kinds of sophisticated language that they will encounter at school and that lay the foundation for later reading development.”