Reading Picture Books With Children

Reading Picture Books With Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking about What They See 

Reading Picture Books with Children by Megan Dowd Lambert

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  • Hardcover: 978-1-58089-662-7, November 2015
  • Paperback:  9781580897914, March 3, 2020
  • E-book: 978-1-60734-695-1 EPUB, 978-1-60734-563-3 PDF

Order a signed copy from my company’s online shop, Memory Lane Books & Gifts, or from the  The Eric Carle Museum Shop. And, no matter where you purchase this book, a portion of the proceeds goes to support The Carle!

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Download an excerpt
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See the Whole Book Approach page on my website for interviews and articles about my WBA work and this book. And go to the 2:05 mark at this KidLit TV link to see my interactive talk delivered at Book Fest at Bank Street On October 22, 2016.

About the Book:

Storytime isn’t the whole story…What do the children see in their picture books?

“I wanted to reflect on and value specific moments of insight, delight, wonder, puzzlement, and pleasure that have arisen from the times when I’ve met children in the pages of picture books and have really listened to what they have to say about what they see and hear.”—from the preface

Megan Dowd Lambert began laying the foundation for the Whole Book Approach when she was working for the education department of the Eric Carle Museum and earning her graduate degree in children’s literature from Simmons College. Several years—and about twenty-five thousand students and three thousand professionals—later, Megan is ready to share her groundbreaking technique for reading picture books with young children.

Chapters cover subjects like trim size and orientation, jackets and covers, endpapers, typography, and more. With examples from well-known books, discover how a picture book’s design, illustrations, and words work together to tell a story and how incorporating these elements into the reading of the story enhances a child’s learning and love of reading.

Praise for Reading Picture Books with Children:

School Library Journal, starred review

Lambert’s Whole Book Approach challenges librarians to think differently about how they share a picture book in a group setting. It asks adult readers to value the opinions of young listeners and to engage them to become active participants as they try to make meaning of all they see and hear during a shared reading. This volume gives concrete examples and practical tips on how to do a shared reading based on the Whole Book Approach; through a conversational style and clear directions, Lambert offers support for librarians and teachers testing out new ways of engaging young listeners. The author developed this method during her graduate studies in children’s literature at Simmons College and while working in the Education Department of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. As she points out, the Whole Book Approach method of sharing picture books starts right on the title page—adults share vocabulary information about the various parts of a physical book. Lambert goes on to dedicate individual chapters to “Jackets and Covers,” “Endpapers,” “Front Matter,” “Typography,” and “Page Design” and spends a good deal of time on how to foster a child’s visual intelligence. The author’s storytime anecdotes are funny, touching, and ultimately illuminating, highlighting how this approach can open new avenues to explore with children. VERDICT An essential purchase for any educator wanting to understand and apply the Whole Book Approach in their storytimes, or for those who would like to better understand the various parts and wonders of the picture book as a unique art form.

Kirkus Reviews
“An in-depth exploration of the author’s Whole Book Approach: a way to slow storytime down and consider children’s responses to art, design, and other visual elements. Lambert honed her new storytime style while sharing picture books at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. She began by using traditional methods but realized that she was representing a museum; she should focus on art and the notion of a book as an art form. Taking cues from the open-ended questions used by the Carle museum’s docents, Lambert created a similar approach toward reading with children. With chapters devoted to trim size and orientation, jackets and covers, endpapers, typography, and more, there really is no better way to say it: Lambert delves into the “whole book.” Librarians may quake at the thought of inviting so much discussion while reading stories to a large group, but Lambert calms fears with repeated (and adorable—such as the “heightful tower” of Madeline) examples from her many years of practice. She also shares tips and tricks to regain focus if a group goes awry. Traditionalists’ concerns that the integrity of the story might be compromised by many interruptions are unfounded; Lambert rightly stresses that reading both the words and the art are equally important and provides ample evidence of children’s increased engagement with the books being shared. Welcome permission to shake things up, with an important acknowledgment of the art form at the core of modern storytimes.”

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Lambert, a lecturer at Simmons College, provides a guidebook to the Whole Book Approach, a “co-constructed (interactive) storytime model centered on the picture book as a visual art form,” an approach developed at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Despite the title, the Whole Book Approach is really more child- centered than book-centered, focusing on the ways children interact with books and emphasizing their experiences of what they see and hear during a storytime rather than analyzing the text or pictures. Lambert’s thoughtful introduction discusses her own struggles with learning to decode pictures and her subsequent education in all things picture book, including layout, medium, style, etc. Chapters include overviews of trim size, jackets and covers, endpapers, front matter, typography, page design, and perhaps most helpfully, a guide to encouraging visual intelligence among children and the benefits of her approach. Resources includes tips on creating and leading Whole Book storytimes, sample questions for Whole Book storytimes, a glossary and further reading.” 

Bound to Stay Bound (full review at this link)

“It’s not an overstatement to say that a close reading and doing of the strategies outlined in this book will change the way you use picture books. Lambert’s detailed analysis examines every aspect and step of sharing a book and does this in a way that seems not only possible but imperative. The dustjacket, the cover, the endpapers, typography, etc., can all be invitations to not only engage with the book but to listen to children communicate their perceptions and observations, making the experience richer for all. Yet the Whole Book Approach is not about dissection, it’s about a fuller understanding.” —Ellen Myrick


“Megan Lambert’s Whole Book Approach, Reading Picture Books with Children isn’t just necessary. It’s required reading for the twenty-first century.”—Elizabeth Bird, A Fuse #8 Production

“The book belongs on the shelf of anyone who wants to understand books and the way that children respond to them.”—Anita Silvey, children’s book expert and author of The Essential Guide to Children’s Books and Their Creators

“Everything one needs to know about bookmaking and book sharing is bound up here, in one well-considered, strikingly designed volume.”—Jerry Pinkney, acclaimed children’s book illustrator and Caldecott medalist

“Reading Picture Books with Children brings us closer to the magic and mystery of picture books, helping us to understand how the different aspects of a book’s construction and design contribute to its storytelling power.” —Perri Klass, MD, author and national medical director of Reach Out and Read

“Megan Dowd Lambert helps parents see picture books in a more expansive and imaginative way–not just the words, but also the illustrations, typography, format, endpapers, and most especially, our kids’ own wonderful insights.”  —Ann Hallock, editor-in-chief of Family Fun magazine

“The genius of the Whole Book Approach is that it respects both the art and the child. With engaging anecdotes, concrete examples, and practical tips, Reading Picture Books with Children provides us with all we need to start using this innovative approach today.”               Kathleen T. Horning, director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Watch the book trailer:

Check out this review from Lindsey Krabbenhoft over at Jbrary, which opens:  “Holy hairballs, folks!  Do you ever read a book that gives you so many a-ha! moments that you’re just bursting to share it with others? Well that’s what happened when I read Reading Picture Books with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See by Megan Dowd Lambert.”