Perhaps you have heard, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Today we will explore how wordless books generate tens of thousands of words that flow from surprisingly entertaining books suitable for gift giving.

A wordless book tells its story through carefully sequenced and highly narrative illustrations. Most often thought of as books for young children, the genre of wordless books spans the generational gambit and encompasses books that are appropriate for every age. Think picture books with complex plot structures, subtle imagery and sophisticated tone. Because these books are clever, well designed, and of ageless quality, readers enjoy the story at their own level.

The beauty of a wordless book is that it requires an engaged response from the reader. It is the perfect choice for the “I hate to read” crowd as well as the parent/caregiver with limited reading skills. The discussion these books generate helps the most reluctant reader develop a positive attitude toward books.

The fun is in the sharing of ideas across generations. For parents there is the opportunity to read with their children instead of reading to them. For children there is the freedom to discover an even more imaginative story than any adult could have conceived. This “book talk” develops vocabulary and language skills at any age. In Big and Little by Margaret Miller babies recognize familiar objects in photographs and learn to label things in their environment. Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann provides toddlers with basic book handling skills as they point and say what they see. Preschoolers will enjoy Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola. Chalk by Bill Thomson is an excellent choice in the early grades. Add a box of sidewalk chalk and your gift will provide many hours of creative play.

Classics of this genre have a timeless quality and are often available at bargain prices. A Boy a Dog and a Frog by Mercer Mayer (1967) brings back a simpler time. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs (1978) communicates emotion and humor through cheerful drawings.

Wordless books can be intellectually challenging. Tuesday by David Wiesner (1991) is a mind- bending fantasy that received a Caldecott Medal. The Secret Box by Barbara Lehman explores a city’s history and celebrates the timeless treasures of childhood. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg has been inspiring writing contests for years.

Zoom by Istvan Banyai is perfect for a family event of mixed ages. This intriguing picture book presents a series of scenes, each one zooming out a bit farther away. By looking at one page at a time, beginning with the cover, a group of people can make predictions about what they are actually looking at. As the perspective changes everyone gets to refine their guesses, discuss clues they see on the page, and predict what will come next. The fun is in discovering how each page is related to the one before and anticipating the next one.

Perhaps there will be adults only at your holiday dinner. There is a wordless book perfect for them too. Memories and family stories will flow from The Arrival. Author Shaun Tan tells a sophisticated, somewhat dark immigration story of starting over in a strange land. The tale is told in haunting sepia toned images. No one will confuse The Arrival with a children’s book.

Enjoy, be merry, and let stories spread warmth in your home.