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How to Boost Language with 19 Spectacular Wordless Books for Speech Therapy

Speech and language therapy is all about talking, right? So why would you want to use wordless picture books for your speech therapy session? No written story, no text. Well… that’s exactly why!

Pancakes for Breakfast is one of 19 fun wordless books terrific for boosting speech and language in elementary and preschool speech therapy #speechsprouts #speechtherapy  #speechtherapybooks
Pancakes for Breakfast is such a fun wordless picture book for your next speech therapy session!

Wordless picture books are magical for eliciting language!

Of course, reading a storybook with text is a great speech therapy activity too. They usually have some fun pictures to talk about, but mainly rely on the text to tell the story. The story is “fed” to the child. That’s great if you’re targeting listening comprehension, “wh” questions, or introducing new vocabulary.

With wordless books, however, it’s the pictures that tell the story, offering magical opportunities for children to generate their own sentences, use their inventory of vocabulary, make inferences, and activate their background knowledge as they tell you all about the pictures. Expressive language? Oh yeah!

What happens when you read a book and then you quiz a child about what you’ve read?

Froggy Learns to Swim by Jonathon London is a storybook with text. You read the line: “So Froggy and his parents flopped outside to the pond- flop flop flop.”

The conversation with a child listening usually goes something like this: You ask: “Where are the frogs going?” You may get just a one or maybe a two-word response, “the pond.”

Now, think about what happens if you have a conversation about the pictures instead of the text.

Let’s look at the fun wordless book by David Weisner, titled Tuesday. If you ask a child to tell you about one of the pictures, it might go something like this:  You: “Oh wow. Look at the frogs!  You may get a whole sentence in response, something like this: “They’re floating up in the air with their lilypads!”

Compare this sentence with an MLU (mean sentence length) of 11 to the sentence with an MLU of 2 in the example of Froggy Goes Swimming.

When exploring a wordless book, you’re likely to get a whole lot more generative language!

Wordless books set up fantastic opportunities for:

1. Increased sentence length and complexity in the child’s expressive speech. You naturally encourage more detailed responses when asking a child to tell you about a picture and what’s happening.

2. Making inferences. You: “I wonder why the blackbird is flying away from the frog?” Child: “It’s scared because the frogs are flying!”

3. Using descriptive words. “It’s dark outside.”

4. Practice with present and past tense verbs. You: “What’s happening in this picture?”  Child: “The birds see the frogs flying!” You: “Oh, no! What happened there?”  Child: “The frogs crashed into the clothes!”

5. A natural opportunity to practice pronouns. You: “Look at that frog!” Child: “It’s upside down!”

6. Use of feelings words. You: “Look at his face! I wonder what the man is thinking?” Child: “He’s surprised! He’s thinking, What are those frogs doing outside my window?”

7. Embedded opportunities to explore story elements of characters, setting, action, problem, and solution.

8.  Literacy skills: Sequencing and telling a simple narrative. Have the child tell you the story by describing each picture as they turn the pages.

9. Toss in opportunities to practice conversational level articulation or fluency techniques as you explore and discuss the pictures together. Great in mixed groups. I think wordless books are a must-have in your speech therapy library!

Here’s a list of 19 wonderful wordless books you absolutely should check out:

Try one of these fabulous wordless books in your next speech therapy session!
Want to see if a book is right for your student’s level? You can “preview” many of these books by watching a “read-aloud” or in this case a “showing” of the book on YouTube. Just search the title. Then head to the library or bookstore to grab a copy of your favorites.

I’ve added Amazon links for your convenience, I don’t get any commission or other consideration for the links, I just want to make it easy for you to check out these great books.

  1. Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Ratham is the story of a mischievous little gorilla in the zoo who steals the zookeeper’s keys.
  2. Wave by Suzy Lee is the story of a little girl at the beach who plays with a wave at the beach that seems almost alive.
  3. A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog by Mercer Meyer is the story of a boy and a dog who see a clever little frog and their misadventures when they try to catch him in a net.
  4. Found by Jeff Newman is the story of a little girl who keeps a lost dog, then has to give him up when the owner is found.
  5. The Umbrella by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert is the story of a little dog who finds an umbrella and while holding it, is blown away by a gust of wind, sending him on amazing adventures.
  6. Float by Daniel Miyares is the story of a little boy and his paper boat.
  7. Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage is the story of a sneaky walrus who escaped the zoo, and the zookeeper who can’t seem to find him- even when it’s right in front of him!
  8. Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordel is the story of a little girl and a wolf cub who both get lost in a snowstorm and how they become friends.
  9. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crocket Johnson is the story of a little boy who uses a purple crayon to draw his way into exciting adventures.
  10. Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola is the story of a little old lady who craves pancakes for breakfast but runs into all kinds of problems when she tries to make them.
  11. The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett is the story of a little girl who sees a bicycle she wants to buy, but she has to find a way to get the money for it.
  12. Tuesday by David Weisner is a story of strange happenings in the frog pond on Tuesday. (Check out this awesome animated version of Tuesday by Paul McCartney on YouTube)
  13. Chalk by Bill Thomson is the story of three friends who draw pictures with a piece of chalk and find out that what they draw comes to life!
  14. The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney is the story of a fierce lion who decides to spare the mouse he’s caught. Later the mouse returns the favor by helping the lion when he’s in trouble.
  15. The Red Book by Barbara Lehman is the story of two children who both find a red book and the adventures they have because of it.
  16. Journey by Aaron Becker is the story of a lonely girl who uses a red marker to draw a magical door and goes through it to find all sorts of adventures.
  17. Spot the Cat by Henry Cole is the story of a cat who gets lost and the little boy who owns her.
  18. South by Patrick McDonell is the story of a little bird who takes a nap and wakes to discover that his entire flock has flown away. His friend, the cat, helps him find the flock.
  19. The Hunters of the Great Forest by Dennis Nolan is the story of a band of tiny hunters who leave their village on a quest to bring a special treat back to the village, and their adventures along the way.

I’m always on the lookout for more great books for speech therapy.

If you have a favorite wordless book I haven’t mentioned, please, please leave a comment, because I’ll want to go check it out! What’s your favorite? Goodnight Gorilla and A Boy, a Dog and a Frog are two of mine.
Here are a couple more recommendations from some great SLPs:
Hiccups by Mercer Mayer

If you love using books for speech therapy…

Storybooks with text are great too. Here are 5 of my favorites plus a post full of sound-loaded books for articulation. To find more books, click the storybooks tab on my home page.

I hope you found some great wordless picture books for your speech therapy sessions! Until next time…

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