There are numerous, excellent wordless or near-wordless picture books out there that foster solitary reading for the pre-literate child or, better yet, that enable children to interact with an adult whose sole focus can now be on pictures instead of words. Wordless picture books help to level the playing field between adult and child, and they give imaginative children free reign in building their own stories. They're not just for young children either; many are aimed at older children specifically. Others are acutely aware of the adult reader. No matter what the target audience, though, good art is never meant for any one category of person alone.
You can't go wrong with any of these:
The Carl books by Alexandra Day wherein a beloved Rottweiler minds the baby, while the baby's mother gets on with her errands and her life. There's at least a dozen in the series now.
Eric Rohman's wordless or near wordless picture books:
Time Flies depicts the journey of a bird through a prehistoric, dinosaur-laden landscape. It's a must for any dinosaur-crazed kid.
My Friend Rabbit should've been left alone as a book. The TV show knock-off is all talk, talk, talk. Who needs words when the pictures say it all?
Peter Spier's Noah's Ark and Rain, Raymond Briggs' The Snowman and Quentin Blake's Clown are classics in the genre,
as are Pat Hutchins' Changes Changes and a personal favourite of mine, Picnic, by Emily Arnold McCully.
Both these works have been adapted into excellent short films that have now become part of the Scholastic video collection.
More recent works include several of the books by David Wiesner. My daughter loves Tuesday, Flotsam and especially Sector 7.
There's also Australian Jeannie Baker's Window
And finally, here are two that are colour-themed:
Jae-Soo Liu's The Yellow Umbrella and Barbara Lehman's The Red Book.
There's also books like Chris van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and the Imagine a Day/Night/Place books that use the paintings of Rob Gonaslaves. These books are neither wordless nor do they tell a continuous narrative; instead, they provide an evocative caption for each illustration that prompts the reader to take control of the storytelling. It's like having 10-20 individual stories per book.
There's plenty more books in the wordless genre than the ones I've listed here. Do you have a favourite? Have you read any of these with children? Did you enjoy the experience or did you find yourself awkwardly sputtering, trying to fill in the story? Do you leave them lying around for kids to stumble on? Pack them in the car for long road trips? Use them as prompts for crafts or writing assignments? Tell me. I'd like to know.