At first glance, wordless books may seem about as useful as pictureless television. But a Utah State University expert says they can help teach important beginning reading skills.

Such books are increasingly popular in bookstores and libraries, even though some parents fear that wordless books encourage children to read less than they already do.Shelly Lindauer, early childhood specialist in the USU College of Family Life, said the books can teach children basic concepts such as "left to right" and "top to bottom."

Since these books must tell a story without the aid of text, the illustrations are usually exceptionally detailed. From these illustrations young children learn pre-reading skills such as visual discrimination, observation, sequencing and problem solving.

Wordless books also create a non-threatening learning experience for children because there is usually no right or wrong way to tell the story. Everything is up to the child's imagination. Creativity and language skills are improved as the child makes up a story, Lindauer said.