It’s often thought that storybooks with words are superior to wordless picture storybooks, but according to a study featured on, children hear a more complex language when parents “read” them wordless picture books as compared with those with set sentence structures.

Professor Daniela O’Neill of University of Waterloo’s Department of Psychology, together with graduate student Angela Nyhout recorded 25 mothers reading picture vocabulary books and wordless picture books to their children. Interestingly, mothers interpreted wordless picture books with a more complicated language, engaging the toddlers to interact with the story by relating it with their own experiences or by asking questions about what would happen next.

O’Neill explains further, “When reading the picture story, we would hear moms say things such as 'where do you think the squirrel is going to go?' or 'we saw a squirrel this morning in the backyard.' But we didn't hear this kind of complex talk as often with vocabulary books, where mentioning just the name of the animal, for example, was more common."

This, of course, doesn’t negate the benefits of picture-vocabulary books. “Books of all kinds can build children's language and literacy skills, but they do so perhaps in different ways,” O’Neill concludes.

(Photo by Nicole via Flickr Creative Commons)

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