Children’s Books Without Stories: Can They Help Children Learn?

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved books, especially stories that featured animals like Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte’s Web, and Peter Rabbit. Books were—and still are—my great escape from the world.

Before Gordon was born, I stocked up on my favorite children’s books, and friends and family gave us plenty more at my baby shower. Still, I continue to look for treasures at the local resale boutique and thrift store, and I’m never disappointed.

Recently, though, I’ve seen a large number of children’s books that don’t have stories. Instead, they focus on illustrations or finger puppets and use only one or two words per page.

For example, In My Den by Sara Gillingham is a cute book about a little bear in a den. The illustrations are beautiful, and the finger puppet in the middle is a neat feature. However, the entire text consists of a single sentence.

Other books, like First 100 Words by Roger Priddy have single-word labels for images loosely grouped into categories.

While I can appreciate the novelty of these books, can they really help children learn?

According to the Expert

To get some answers, I reached out to Margaret Feldmann, blogger at Margaret is a mom and pediatric Speech and Language Pathologist. She has tons of blog posts on how to encourage your child’s language development, and she’s kind enough to share those posts with my Pinterest followers on my board Childhood Development. (Click here to follow this board on Pinterest.)

Margaret explained that books with only one or two words per page “can be helpful to pre-talkers and very early talkers to learn to speak.” How so? Well, if your child isn’t talking at all yet, it can be helpful to read a single word like “car,” while pointing to the picture of the car in the book. This type of labeling can also be used to supplement daily speech, such as pointing to a car driving down the road and saying, “car.” We all do this when trying to get our kids to say Mama and Daddy—and it works.

However, Margaret cautions that children need variety. Whether it’s through reading or in speech, children need to hear you speak normally in order to learn vocabulary as well as intonation (how your voice goes up and down when you talk). That means you can use simple books to teach those first few words, but don’t neglect regular story books or conversation.

Margaret says, “I am in the camp that whatever type of book that is engaging to the child (single word or longer form or just talking about the pictures) is best for encouraging literacy because fostering a love of books is the most important part!” I think we can all agree on that!

Check out these related articles on

How to Raise a Reader – 8 Tips for Reading with Infants and Toddlers for more on encouraging little ones to read.

Self-Talk, Parallel Talk and Expansion: Explained for Parents for more on the level of speech to use with little ones.

What are we reading?

I read to Gordon several times throughout the day. In the morning, we read Hey! Wake Up! By Sandra Boynton (, which earns me a huge grin from ear to ear. Then we read Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth (, where I count the ladybugs and point out the other animals. The Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry is an afternoon favorite, while waterproof books like “Bath Time!” by Sandra Boynton – are a hit in the bath. In the evening, we read various bedtime books, including Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney (my childhood favorite) and the beautiful A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na (

As Gordon drinks his nighttime bottle, I’ll read a chapter from the Bible on the Bible Gateway app on my phone (currently 2 Corinthians). Then, if he’s still up, I may read a classic (currently Little Women). With these electronic books, he doesn’t see the pages, but he enjoys hearing me read out loud. As for the Bible readings, I pray each night that God’s Word will minister to his spirit even though he doesn’t understand the words—and I believe it does! (Read more about that here.)

If you want your little one to love reading (and who doesn’t?), then be sure to read to him on a daily basis. Include a variety of book types. Enjoy a story, look at the pictures, or play “find the _.” You just can’t go wrong snuggled up with your kid and a book.

What are you reading to your child right now? What are his favorite books?

Does your little one know who God is? Are you encouraging his faith to grow on a daily basis? Click here to download my free eBook to learn 10 practical ways to teach your little one all about this great big God of ours.

Author: Ashley L Jones

My heart's desire is to show people of all ages how the Bible applies to their lives. I use my Masters in Biblical Studies to dig into the Word, and I share what I've learned on my blog ( Check out the About section of my blog for more details. Thanks for stopping by!

4 thoughts

  1. I began reading to Matt before he was born and all through his growing years! Reading is crucial to a child’s development! Good article!Thanks AShley!

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