Lambert, Megan Dowd. Reading Picture Books with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See. Charlesbridge, 2015. 152p. $21.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-662-7.
The Whole Book Approach, which involves discussing the parts of the book and illustrative elements when reading a picture book, is the method explained in this fast-paced book. Based on the author’s experience designing storytimes and learning opportunities at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (in Amherst, MA), the book is packed with tips on how to engage the child audience when reading picture books.
Similar to the dialogic reading approach developed by Saroj Ghoting, author of several books on storytime, the Whole Book Approach also advocates for creating a dialogue while reading to young children. In this case, the dialogue is not just about the story but about the parts of the book, including the jacket, endpapers, title page, copyright page, gutter, the font used, and other factors. Naturally, this type of dialogue enhances a child’s preliteracy skill of Print Awareness.
What a child sees in the illustration is also important to talk about when reading to children. Although Lambert doesn’t go into the media used for art, or styles of illustration such as cartoon, portraiture, or impressionistic, she does discuss how to motivate discussion of what is pictured in illustrations. What colors are dominant, what do you see the character doing, and other discussion questions are listed.
Throughout the book, there are examples from popular picture books to describe what part of the book is the focus, or what to ask children about when reading certain books. For example, the endpapers for Bill Martin’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, illustrated by Eric Carle, can show children that the endpapers can expand on the story – in this case, the colors are shown in the same order as the animals of that color are shown in the story.
Those of us who review picture books will find much useful information and the vocabulary needed to describe picture books, including “air frame,” which is the white space that frames an illustration, or knockout type, which is white type on a dark background.
Many librarians already incorporate dialogic reading in the storytimes they present to preschoolers and school-age children; this expands on that concept to talk more about the parts of a book. Even adults can appreciate how much of the “story” is found first on the book jacket or cover, the endpapers, the title page, and other front matter we often skip over to get to what we think of as the first page of the story. If you do storytimes for older preschoolers and kindergarteners, this will be especially useful.
Penny Peck, SJSU iSchool