To Read Without Words

In 2016 the Norwegian publisher Gyldendal launched a new children’s book genre: the wordless picture book. Many recognized illustrators have joined in on the concept, and the books that have been published are varied and fit for children of different ages. This is in no way anything new outside of Norway, but it is the first time this is accessible through Norwegian bookstores.

So what is a wordless picture book? A wordless picture book is a book without words, that has its story told through images and illustrations. It can be customized for young and somewhat older children. With these books, Gyldendal’s goal is to give children with reading problems in the age group 6-9 years old the special sense of achievement of finally reading a whole book, on their own!

Hilde Dybvig, Associate Professor in Norwegian at the Norwegian kindergarten teacher education is a bit sceptical of the fact that the sense of achievement is the main goal of such a book. She believes that the books rather work as a conversation book, where the child and the adult together, can figure out what the history is about. For children with a different language background the books can be a unique opportunity to give a truly equal experience, because the experience is not based on the understanding of written text.

The books challenge what reading can mean by assuming that text comprehension is a broad concept, and that the path to reading skills is multiple - and that a story can be perceived and understood in different ways.

Wordless books are a good way to build important reading skills, but also other abilities like listening skills, vocabulary, understanding and increased awareness about how stories are structured. The books can also be used for children with learning difficulties related to reading. The pictures tell a story that is accessible to children that otherwise struggle with text, but can also be a way of telling a story that adults and children can enjoy and explore together.