Reading Picture Books with Children, by Megan Dowd Lambert (2015)

Reading Picture Books with ChildrenEvery once in a while someone comes along and challenges to take another look at how you do things, suggesting there may be a “better” way. Megan Dowd Lambert does this for librarians and other adults who regularly read picture books at storytime. We learn to hold the book facing out, reading the story as a narrative, stopping to let children quietly appreciate the illustrations. We tolerate interrupting questions, quickly answered so we can return to the story. Lambert challenges us to consider what she calls the Whole Book Experience, in which we bring the entire bookmaking process to the reading experience with children as young as two or three. Let me digress for a moment. I was an early reader, reading independently by age 5. At 6 I enjoyed the Bobbsey Twins novels (some 200 pages!) and even then I literally explored every part of the book. From the copyright page I learned that Grossett & Dunlap were the publishers, that the books were written many years before I was born, and I pored over the frontispiece, the old-fashioned habit of featuring a scene from the book in a black and white illustration. Almost always the line under the image varied very slightly from the version in the narrative, and oh I noticed! Lambert encourages us to proactively bring this to deep interest in the book as an object to children, whether we’re lapsharing or in storytime, by asking them questions about the jacket, endpapers and frontmatter before delving into the story. What a difference this will make for storytimes – even if we do just a bit of this in each program! Just as print awareness is a skill slowly built, so a conscious exploration of the art in picture books gradually leads to a sophisticated visual literacy. Lambert uses Bill Martin’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? to demonstrate how endpapers can be a clue to the pending story. Designed by the book’s illustrator Eric Carle, they feature a rainbow of hand-drawn stripes including brown, and in the order of the story! And in Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day, the boy in his red snowsuit appears twice in the image, both climbing up and then sliding down the same hill. This can be confusing until the child reader learns about time as a visual element. Lamber discusses how to make a book’s typeface, page design and art placement part of the reading experience, noting that children’s perceptions can give the adult reader a new perspective too. She concludes with a resource section that starts with an exploration of how to use the Whole Book Approach and “embrace children’s voices in storytime” (82), sample questions to use, a glossary, resources and notes. The single index is excellent, including authors and titles used in the text as well as topics and phrases. A great resource for professionals, this has wider appeal to anyone interested in the picture book and the delights it offers for young readers and their families.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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