From my perspective, wordless picture books are an under-appreciated genre. “Readable” in any language (or multiple languages), they help children to develop comprehension skills and they can be used to prompt discussion and encourage language development.
Last week, I had the pleasure to read two wordless picture books by Molly Idle. Floral and the Flamingo was published in 2013. Flora and the Peacocks was published this year. Flora and the Penguin was published in between.
Floral and the Flamingo begins when a young girl approaches a statuesque flamingo and takes her cues from the bird. Soon it appears that the flamingo is challenging the girl to match her posture and form. Floral is up to the task. She stands on one leg, she arches her back, she stretches and poses. Before too long, the flamingo and Flora are dancing together and loving every moment of the experience.
A truly lovely picture book that uses flaps beautifully, this will have special appeal for fans of ballet. Delightful illustrations are wonderfully expressive and will create an opportunity to talk about Flora’s emotions as she does her best to match the graceful flamingo’s movements.
Flora the Flamingo was a 2014 Caldecott Honor Book
The third book in Ms. Idle’s series, Flora and the Peacocks adds another dimension to her storytelling. In this wordless picture book, Flora introduces herself to two peacocks. One of the peacocks appears quite happy to have a new friend but the other is not keen at all. The trio struggles to find a way to find harmony and to be friends.
Dramatic illustrations highlight gorgeous blue, green and gold peacock feathers and the especially the facial expressions of the three characters. Young readers will want to talk about why it was difficult for Flora to join the two peacocks and how their behavior changed over the course of the story.
Since September 2013, I have been working twice a week with a four year old boy who has delayed speech. He lives in a bilingual household and he has one older sibling – a girl who also had delayed speech. It has been enormously rewarding to help this child find his voice. He is unfailingly happy and is always excited to welcome me and my “bag of tricks” into his home.
Here are some of the items that have been particularly helpful as we find ways to engage him verbally.
At almost every one of our sessions, my student has touched, lifted flaps and pulled the tabs of this cheerful and engaging alphabet book and accompanying (pop up) poster. Whether feeling the alligator’s scaly tail or the yak’s shaggy head, this is a book that children love to explore through touch.
Phonemic awareness is also supported as the author effectively uses alliteration, ‘Wet waddling Warthogs,’ rhyming and onomatopoeia, ‘Furry Lions roar, Whiskered Mice squeak, Hungry newborn Nightingales – cheep, cheep, cheep!‘ while introducing a variety of animals. Older children will notice that extra details have been added to the illustrations but not the text. Termed, Safari Sightings, these animals and plants are illustrated and listed in an afternote.
I can’t tell you how many times we have solved this Ravensburger See Inside Puzzle together. My young student happily turns the puzzle upside down, and together we turn all the puzzle pieces over. We chat as we start with the corners and work towards the middle of the puzzle. There are so many ways to enrich a child’s vocabulary, understanding and problem solving as we talk about the puzzle pieces and their attributes while noticing the plants, insects, animals, birds and structures featured in the puzzle itself.
Rather than focusing on the enunciation of specific sounds or words, I want to encourage playing with sound and making a variety of sounds. It is amazing how an inexpensive plastic toy ‘Echo’ microphone can encourage a child to sing, make sound effects and speak. I pick up an Echo Mic and put the other one on the table. Before long, we are both singing The Alphabet Song or The Wheels on the Bus or Happy Birthday. I hate to think what we sound like but progress is progress and the plastic ‘Echo” microphone has helped us along the way.
As we work toward improved verbal communication, I want to ensure that my student has a rich listening or receptive vocabulary as well as a large speaking or expressive vocabulary so I want to provide him with repeated meaningful encounters with words. I want him to hear and know colors, numbers, positional words (over, under, beside, inside) and nouns (windows, doors, wheels, roof, trees, flowers, bricks, fences, house, car, truck, steering wheel). Of course, I turn to my favourite toy. Ever. Each day I arrive with a bucket of Lego . We build houses and towers, we look for small bricks and blue bricks and yellow, white, red, black and blue bricks. We add windows and doors, stairs and roofs. And I talk about everything we do. I chat constantly and now he chimes in.
From the start, we have played Tic Tac Toe. I made a laminated game board (that includes a letter of the alphabet in each square) and I use Xs and Os from a dollar store game. When we first played, his job was to say, “Your turn,” after he played his “O.” Now, he says the letter name in the box and a word that begins with the letter, “C is for Cat.” He also says, “Your turn, ” and “I win!” He has never tired of this simple game. When we first started, he said very little. Now, it is a constant exchange of short sentences and the joy of communicating about a shared activity.
Spot the Dot created by David A. Carter Novelty book published by Cartwheel Books, an Imprint of Scholastic Spot the Dot is an appealing, brightly colored, interactive pop up book that includes flaps to lift, a wheel to turn and tabs to pull. Visual clues and predictable text encourage children – even those with delayed speech – to venture into ‘reading.’ My student thoroughly enjoys this book and now points to the words as he ‘reads’ each page and then pretends to ‘search’ for the dot.
Alphabet Explosion! Search and Count from Alien to Zebra by John Nickle
Alphabet Explosion presents 26 challenging visual puzzles that will appeal to both youngsters and adults. With a full-page illustration and the number of things to ‘spy’ for each letter, you and your child(ren) could spend hours with this book. On the page for ‘S’, we are told to look for 47 things that begin with ‘S’. You might expect a snake – but would you recognize ‘slithering’ as well? Good luck!
Alphabet Rescue – written by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Bruce Wood
Fans of Audrey and Bruce Wood’s Alphabet Adventure and Alphabet Mystery will be delighted to know about this new concept book. The creators could not have picked a more appealing storyline than to have the ‘little letters’ build their own fire truck. When the ‘big’ fire truck breaks down, it is up to the ‘little letters’ to come to the rescue and put out a fire in the letter-making factory. Beautiful illustrations have so much to offer those learning the alphabet.
Eating the Alphabet Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z By Lois Ehlert
Here’s a serving of veggies that will appeal to even the pickiest eater. Big, bold illustrations of familiar (apple) and not-so-familiar (jicama) fruits and vegetables make for a delightful alphabet book. Reading it might convince your child to sample something new and vitamin-rich, possibly the whole alphabet!
G is for One Gzonk! An Alpha-Number-Bet Book written and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi (a.k.a. Tiny Diterlizzi)
In the Style of Dr. Seuss, here we meet Tiny DiTerlooney. He warns us that we ought to “say good-bye to boring books where bears can bounce a ball.” Instead, he uses delightful watercolor illustrations to introduce twenty-six highly original ‘Creachlings.’ Lots of fun – especially for older children who will relish an all-new take on the alphabet.
Read Sing Play ABC Sing-Along – written by Teddy Slater, illustrated by Liisa Chauncy Guida
Twenty-six sing-along songs, with mostly familiar tunes offer a fun introduction to letter sounds and rhyming. Fun illustrations (including ten touch and feel textures & four pull-tabs) together with a pleasing CD make this a great resource for families and classrooms.
Don’t Throw That Away! written by Lara Bergen and illustrated by Betsy Snyder has an upbeat, positive message for very young children: what looks like garbage may be recyclable. Discarded paper, plastic, metal and glass all belong in a recycling bin, an empty jam jar can be transformed into a vase and a plastic milk jug can become a bird feeder. Additional flaps reveal homemade musical instruments, costumes and a car made from a cardboard box.
Great for preschool-age children, the relatively small format (typical of many board books) makes it best-suited to an individual or small group setting. Would be an excellent introduction to an art or craft project reusing discarded materials.
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