By Narrative Skills

In preparation for reading, it’s important for children to develop narrative skills — the ability to understand a narrative, describe events, and tell stories. As these skills improve, children learn reading comprehension, critical thinking, and the structure of stories, including concepts like “beginning, middle, and end.” All of these are components in the narrative foundation that is vital when learning to read. 

One of the easiest ways to teach narrative skills is through reading books. Wordless — or nearly wordless — picture books offer a unique opportunity for children to practice telling stories. Here are ten favorites to get started!

Quest by Aaron Becker

A king emerges from a hidden door in a city park, whisking two children into a fantastic land that pushes the bounds of their imagination. Visually captivating and an exhilarating story.  

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

In this award-winning adaptation of one of Aesop’s most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. 

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson

A little girl collects wildflowers while on a walk with her distracted father. Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter. 

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

A girl is lost in a snowstorm. A wolf cub is lost, too. How will they find their way home? Paintings rich with feeling tell this satisfying story of friendship and trust. 

Hike by Pete Oswald

Follow a father and child into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest. By the time they return home, they feel alive — and closer than ever — as they document their hike and take their place in family history. 

Dandelion’s Dream by Yoko Tanaka

In a meadow filled with dandelion buds just about to flower, one dandelion blooms into a real lion. What a great, wide world there is to explore when you have paws instead of roots: there are trains to ride, ships to sail, and cities with lights as bright as Dandelion’s field in full bloom. But will a real lion ever be content to go back to being a rooted dandelion?

Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin

When a young girl brings her beloved stuffed fox to the playground, much to her astonishment, a real fox takes off with it! The girl chases the fox into the woods with her friend, the boy, following close behind, but soon the two children lose track of the fox. Wandering deeper and deeper into the forest, they come across a tall hedge with an archway. What do they find on the other side? 

Float by Daniel Miyares

A little boy takes a boat made of newspaper out for a rainy-day adventure. The boy and his boat dance in the downpour and play in the puddles, but when the boy sends his boat floating down a gutter stream, it quickly gets away from him, leading to a new adventure. 

Wallpaper by Thao Lam

The story of a young girl whose family moves into a new house. Outside, she can hear other kids playing, but she’s too shy to say hello. So she picks at the old wallpaper in her room―revealing an entryway to a fantastic imaginary adventure world behind the walls.

Spencer’s New Pet by Jessie Sima

When Spencer gets a new pet, he’s excited to do all the things that pets do—taking walks in the park, going to the vet, and attending parties together. There’s just one hitch: Spencer’s new pet is a balloon. And that means No. Sharp. Objects. A story of pure fun about a boy, his dog, and a friendship that endures life’s sharpest…and most unexpected twists.

Other ways to develop narrative skills include…

  • Narrate your actions in simple language during the day
  • Encourage children to relate recent experiences 
  • Ask questions that involve describing things
  • Practice by re-telling favorite stories without the book
  • Draw pictures that tell a story


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