Wordless books – The world more than just words.

Khevna.P.Shah, INN/Bangalore

@Shahkhevna1, @Infodeaofficial

Have you ever read a wordless book? The immediate response to this question would be
wordless books are for babies. But wordless books offer more than what is shown on the
surface. And if you haven’t read one yet, now is a good time to explore, leaving the politics of
language behind.

With the steady and growing emphasis on reading, we often neglect the vast potential of
illustration in developing a child’s understanding of the world. Wordless books offer infinite
opportunities to the children to decode images and interpret stories in their own understanding.
Wordless books build comprehension skills and this includes narrating what has happened till
now and predicting what might happen. With no words or guidance, the child has to figure out
the story only by using illustration and imagination. This not only develops comprehension but
also an overall understanding of the story structure and plot. It also establishes a sense of
confidence among the children as they take pride in reading the book by themselves. Especially
for those children who find it difficult to read, wordless books are convenient for them. Not only
for the younger children, but they are also perfect for older children who need to improves their
storytelling skills and comprehension. It not only helps improving storytelling skills but also
promotes creativity and imagination. The wordless book doesn’t restrict the child’s imagination,
in fact, it gives the freedom to design the story the way they like.

In recent years, Ammachi’s Glasses, a wordless book by Priya Kuriyan have been popular and
encouraging. The book captures the hilarious occurring of an old woman who is unable to find
her glasses one morning and any text would overpower the clear details of the story. Kuriyan
believes that, “The feeling that a picture evokes is immediate, that gut impact, the pleasure.
Sometimes, words can’t create that impact.” Tuesday, an almost- wordless book illustrated by
David Wiesner is about frogs fly throughout the sky and float through houses after-dark hours. It
is mysterious and strange, how it can shape a child’s thinking of the night. Snip, written by
Canato Jimo is set in Nagaland, is about two notorious siblings who play with a pair of scissors.
Not only Snip is relatable, but also accessible around the world without any language barrier.
Canato Jimo won an award for Snip at the Publishing Next Industry Awards. Other wordless
books like Time Flies by Eric Rohmann and Stormy by Goujing are reminders of how important
the illustrations are and also give more freedom and opportunities to tell their own stories.
“Wordless picture books can cross borders more easily, leaving behind the politics of language.
They then become windows to different cultures,” says Priya Krishna, a senior editor at Tulika
Books. Wordless picture books are actually even more difficult to read as it requires the
observer to read carefully, summarize, make inferences, interpret and evaluate visual
information and make connections without any support from the words. But the notion that
wordless books are meant only for children with reading disabilities is completely untrue when
one reads books like The Arrival by Shaun Tan and The Wanderer by Peter Van Den Ende.

In a world fixated on the child’s ability to decode the written word, the word free books need to
find more audience and the awareness should be spread by the teachers and the parents
should encourage the child to read them.

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