Unspoken, by Henry Cole

Unspoken, illustrated by Henry Cole

Cole, H. (2012). Unspoken: A story from the Underground Railroad. Scholastic Press.

Category: Wordless book

Summary: A young girl discovers a runaway slave hiding in the family’s barn and must decide what to do.

Theme: Doing what’s right takes courage.

Generalizations: the Civil War, slavery, the Underground Railroad, freedom, empathy, courage

Potential uses in the classroom: Unspoken can be used to introduce slavery and, more specifically, the Underground Railroad. This book illustrates trust, courage, and empathy, especially in times of conflict. More generally, wordless books can (and should!) be used to develop literacy skills. For example, children must “read” the illustrations to infer or predict. Additionally, wordless books provide younger children the opportunity to practice sequencing skills. Older children can practice their storytelling skills by incorporating text and dialog. Finally, children can compare different wordless books and discuss the many devices illustrators use to tell a story.

Melissa’s note: One of my friends, who is also a librarian, lent me her copy of Unspoken. I was so taken with the illustrations that I immediately purchased a copy for my own collection. It is one of those books that begs you to linger on the pictures. I was also excited to see Unspoken mentioned in “Enhancing English Learners’ Language Development Using Wordless Picture Books” (Louie & Sierschynski, 2015). I can’t help but imagine using this book with my future students. Unspoken won an award for Notable Children’s Book in 2013.

Published by Melissa

I am a certified general education and special education teacher with a master's degree in literacy education. I currently co-teach 2nd grade in the morning and provide ELA and math instruction to a small group of 4th graders in the afternoon. I love my job!

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