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image of several wordless picture books
“Wordless book” sounds like a contradiction. But wordless books use illustrations to tell a story, with very few or even no words included with the pictures. Believe it or not, they can actually be a great way to help your child on their journey to becoming successful readers.

One important part of reading is decoding the shapes of letters and seeing them as words, but there are other skills that are just as important. Growing readers also need to understand:

  • what words mean (vocabulary) 
  • figure out how they make sense together (context)
  • and understand what sentences mean all together (comprehension) 

Wordless books can be great tools for growing and strengthening all three of those skills for new and more experienced readers!

When there aren’t written words to rely on for a story, kids and caregivers become more active participants in the story and talk more  about what’s happening in the illustrations. Adults use a lot of unusual words that don’t come up in regular, daily conversations to describe the setting and characters and to ask questions about what is going on. Children flex their creativity and observation muscles as they look at and think about the illustrations. They practice asking questions and coming up with answers as they figure out what is happening and what might happen next. Together you create dialogue for characters or even make up your own stories based on what the kids see and interpret. All of that literacy development happens with no written words at all.

Whether you regularly use wordless books in your family reading or are just getting started, here are some ideas:

  • Remember there are no right or wrong ways to read a wordless book! It’s all about the conversations between kids and caregivers, and those will be different from reading to reading and kid to kid.
  • Think about first taking a “story walk” through the book. Look through the pages to get children used to the book and the illustrations. We all know kids love reading books over and over again!
  • Try taking a look at the book from cover to cover. Sometimes artists hide fun details on the front/back cover, the title page, and even under the removable paper cover that comes with some books (usually called a dust jacket or dust cover).
  • Maybe ask questions like “what do you see?” and “what is going on in this picture?” and “what do you see that makes you say that?” (borrowed from Visual Thinking Strategies)
  • Encourage children to tell the story in their own words and help them learn new words  when they ask for more information about  an emotion or concept. Example: “yes, that duck looks angry and sad. Do you know what that feeling is called? Some people call it frustration, like when you’re sad you don’t get to do something and you’re mad about it, too.”
  • Have fun with it!

For some wordless book suggestions, take a look at the booklist Wordless (or most wordless) books for all ages.

Rene Denfeld is an internationally bestselling author, journalist, and death penalty investigator. Of her latest novel, Geek Love author Katherine Dunn says, "The Enchanted is unlike anything I’ve ever read...it’s a jubilant celebration that explores human darkness with a profound lyrical tenderness…" Check out Rene's selected favorites. For more reading recommendations with your tastes in mind, try the My Librarian service. 

Local libraries were my sanctuaries growing up, and in each one I left a child version of myself, roaming the aisles, pulling out titles or checking out the books where librarians had left little tags that said read this. The best ones were those little-known gems, the books that may not have hit the bestseller list but still ended up lodged in my heart.

When I was a young child, the North Portland library was my refuge. I will forever associate that beautifully carved wooden ceiling with my favorite books of childhood: Trask by Don Berry, which I must have read a hundred times, or Crazy Weather by Charles McNichols. It was from the wide selection of African-American folktales I discovered my own joy of fable in books like The Cow-Tail Switch by Harold Courlander, with its jubilant stories and unforgettable phrasing: “A man is not truly dead until he is forgotten.”

When I was in middle school my family moved to Sellwood, then a blue-collar neighborhood where fishermen still hung the catch outside the local tavern. I spent endless drowsy afternoons in the local library, and remember the books that tore the sides of the paper grocery bags I carried home: from the astonishing Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter to the gentle yet wise memoir, West With The Night by Beryl Markham.

By fifteen, I was on my own, and like a lot of hardscrabble kids, the downtown library was my safe place. I celebrated my birthday on the second floor of that library while rain howled outside. Just the sight of that brick and stone façade brings back memories of all the books I discovered there, including Yellowfish by John Keeble and The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchet—I’m the one who dog-eared all those pages—and who could forget the warmly humorous science fiction by our late and lamented local author Robert Sheckley?

Libraries saved my life. They gave me comfort, solace, and a vision of life as limitless as the shelves. They made me the writer I am today. So when I recommend my secret treasures, what I am really recommending is my own memories, and want to caution: the best way to find your own is to wander the stacks. Feel your hand on the books—reach for them the way we reach for each other, with longing and an open heart. Then you will never be dissatisfied.

Download Me and White Supremacy today.

Layla F. Saad's book Me and White Supremacy: A 28-Day Challenge to Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor  leads readers through a journey of understanding their

Me and White Supremacy cover
white privilege and participation in white supremacy, so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on Black people, Indigenous people and people of color. Wherever you are in the challenge, here are some supporting resources to help.

Getting started:

Find copies of Me and White Supremacy in the catalog. If you are able, consider supporting the author by purchasing a copy. White Supremacy and Me is designed as a 28-day workbook, so you may need to renew or place another hold if you are using the hardcopy.

Learn more:

Website: The National Museum of African American History & Culture breaks out history, bias, whiteness, antiracism and more. Includes videos and questions for self-reflection and discussion.

For parents talking to children about racism 

Podcast: Talking Race with Young Children, from NPR and Sesame Street

This 20 minute podcast shares ideas for talking about race with children, starting when they are very young.  Additional resources are included at the end.

Website: EmbraceRace

​A great place to start for webinars and more, EmbraceRace was founded by two parents (one Black, one multiracial) seeking to nurture resilience in children of color; nurture inclusive, empathetic children of all stripes; and raise kids who think critically about racial inequity.

Start with the short action guide and then dive into their many book lists, highlighting diverse titles for a wide variety of ages.

Book: Not My Idea, by Anastasia Higginbotham (for elementary school-aged children)

Not My Idea follows a young white girl who is unsatisfied when her family won’t answer her questions about the shooting of an unarmed Black person by a police officer. Higginbotham has a track record of tackling challenging topics (from divorce to death) in a way that respects young readers and gives them the honesty they deserve. Includes activities on how to stand up against injustice and highlights how white people can disrupt white supremacy.

More on talking to kids and teens about race and racism.

Next steps: If you want to engage more deeply in the work of antiracism

Website: Take a look at the offerings from Layla F. Saad's Good Ancestor Academy. A series of classes are offered, including "Allyship in the Workplace" and "Parenting and White Supremacy."

Video: How to be a Good Ally--Identity, Privilege, Resistance, by Ahsante the Artist

Guide: Let's Talk: Discussing Race, Racism and Other Difficult Topics with Students, from Teaching Tolerance

Thinking about starting a discussion group around Me and White Supremacy? Here are some tips on facilitating conversations that challenge participants or cause discomfort.

Video: "What if white people led the charge to end racism?", Dr. Nita Mosby Tyler, TedXMileHigh, Jan. 30, 2020.

What if white people led the charge to end racism? | Nita Mosby Tyler | TEDxMileHigh

Cindy and her dog, Maddie
Cindy Hiday is the author of Iditarod Nights, a Library Writers Project book that has recently been published in partnership with Ooligan Press. 

People love dogs! What inspired you to write about the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in particular?

I became hooked on the sport when I read Race Across Alaska: First woman to win the Iditarod tells her story, by Libby Riddles and Tim Jones. I'm drawn to stories about women who are courageous under pressure, as Libby Riddles certainly was when she found herself exhausted and caught in a blizzard during the race. When I read about a local woman who put her career on hold to train and compete in the Iditarod, I had the spark of an idea for my heroine in Iditarod Nights. For a time, the research consumed me. I discovered there is so much more behind the Iditarod – from its early beginnings to its present-day sport – than most people realize. I admire the veteran mushers, their dedication and how they put their dogs' wellbeing ahead of their own. And I fell in love with the dogs! They are amazing athletes; the sheer joy in their expressions when they're hooked up to a sled is thrilling!

Are there common themes you find yourself drawn to in your writing and the books you read?

My author brand is writing in the spirit of adventure and happy endings; that's my promise to my readers. The more challenging and seemingly impossible the adventure, the better. There has to be character growth beyond what the character believes themselves capable of. And even though I put my characters on an emotional rollercoaster, there is always a happy outcome. I want a story, whether one of my own or someone else's, to leave me with a good feeling. I'm not genre-specific in what I write or read. To date, I've published three contemporary romances and a humorous adventure novel. If it's a good story, I don't care if it's a romance or western or sci-fi/fantasy. I just finished reading Nora Roberts' dystopian series Chronicles of the OneI'm a huge Stephen King fan, especially his Dark Tower series and Christine, and Whiskey When We're Dry, by John Larison, knocked my socks off!

What can readers expect from Cindy Hiday next?

My current work-in-progress, Come Snowfall, takes place in 1880's eastern Oregon and is about a twelve-year-old girl who discovers how far she's willing to go to save her family. My husband and I went camping near Baker City last summer to research the area where my story begins, near the Elkhorns and Wallowas, and we visited the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. It's beautiful country, and it has been fascinating to learn about the history of that era, the pioneering west. I hope to have the book finished by the end of the year.

Who inspires you in your life?

Resilient people. People who find the silver lining or a solution to a challenging situation. People who don't know the meaning of the word "can't"; And kind people. Something as simple as a smile from a stranger can brighten my entire day.

Our Very Own Enchanted April

We all had plans. I was going to visit the island in New Jersey where my mother lives, see my family and swim in the ocean. My sister and I were going to meet up in Pittsburgh and canvass together before the presidential election. I was starting to dream about a trip to Colorado to visit a friend, imagining how we’d hike in the Rockies as wildflowers bloomed, how we’d drink wine on her deck. 

Absolutely none of this will be happening this year. Instead, I’m taking walks, circling my neighborhood, staying close to home because I definitely don’t want to use a public bathroom- even if I could find one that was open.

I know that a lot of you are sad about canceled trips, too. I know it’s not the same, but reading can offer vivid settings that are definitely not my neighborhood or, presumably, yours. The books on this list are all downloadable. Consider immersing yourself in another place while we stay home to try to protect the people who live in all the places.

You might be keeping safe at home but enjoy these live online performances from some amazing library children’s performers.

Resources for older adults

Are you looking for resources and activities for older adults? Check out these great ideas from Library Outreach Services:

Scrabble pieces spelling "support"

 

Resources for caregivers of older adults

Are you a caregiver for an older adult? Find support and resources from these organizations:

  • Timeslips.org has free stories, images and audio to spark meaningful engagement with family members who have dementia. 
  • Aging and Disability Resource Connection is providing multilingual local support for caregivers and older adults. You can call or email ADRC at 503.988.3646 or adrc@multco.us  for 24-hour information and assistance to seniors, people with disabilities, and caregivers.
  • The Alzheimer's Association 24/7 help line (800.272.3900) is providing specialists and master’s-level clinicians to give confidential support and information to people living with Alzheimer’s, caregivers, families and the public.

How can you hold a family book discussion that will work for grandparents, parents and kids alike? Take a look at this list of suggested titles in ebook or downloadable audio. Some, like Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's An Indigenous People's History of the United States come in both adult, and young reader editions. Others, like Kafka's Metamorphosis and Angie Sage's Maximillian Fly share similar themes, so you can talk about the book you've read and pose general questions for everyone to discuss. Are you going to give it a try? Send us a note to tell us how it worked, or make suggestions for titles that have worked for your family.

computer with person in background
Looking to learn new skills while at home? Or wanting to watch a music or dance performance? Local chefs, fitness teachers, musicians and performers are offering online classes and performances. Check out some of these cool offerings:

Gabriel Rucker from restaurants Le Pigeon and Carnard is offering live cooking classes via Instagram. He posts the recipes on his Instagram stories ahead of time. 

While it isn’t live, the New York Times has some 6, 7, and 9 minute full body workouts to get you moving without needing any equipment at home. 

Artslandia, Portland’s performing arts magazine, is hosting a live happy hour, Standing By, with music on Facebook at 5pm each night. 

Not live, but you can watch Lewis and Clark College’s orchestra play music on their Vimeo channel and various music from the University of Oregon on their YouTube as well. 

Live Music Project Seattle is offering a calendar of live music events you can join via your computer. 

New York Times bestselling Illustrator Wendy MacNaughton of Salt Acid Fat Heat is offering drawing classes via her Instagram stories Monday through Friday at 10am. 

Join one of our amazing performers, Micah and Me, for a live ukelele party on Facebook Live Saturdays at 11am and Mondays at 4:30pm. 

Fun for all-ages, join the Oregon Zoo as they Facebook Live with some of their animals everyday at 9:30am. 

OMSI is hosting a virtual science pub about the dynamic Geological History of the Columbia Gorge: Tale of Two Floods with Scott Burns, PhD, Professor of Geology at Portland State University on March 31st from 6:30 to 8:30pm on Facebook Live. 

Is there anything better for hard times than singing? Choir Choir Choir is holding online singalongs on Facebook.

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