Reading Picture Books With Children by Megan Dowd Lambert

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.


I was first alerted to Megan and her work by the great folks at Storytime Underground.  Then I got a hold of her book and I read the entire thing in one sitting (and read it a second time the next day!).  Lightbulbs were going off left and right!

Megan writes about the Whole Book Approach in which “children’s active participation in making meaning of all they see and hear during a picture book reading takes precedence over moving through the pages at the pace of the adult’s oral reading of the text.” She talks about reading the whole book with children – the illustrations, the design, the pacing, the cover, the end papers, all of it.  Reading her book truly made me consider the picture book as a piece of art, not just a container of stories.  Her approach shifts storytime from a performance to leading “co-constructive storytimes” where kids are engaged and talking during the reading of the book, not just before and after.

I think one of the reasons Megan’s approach hit home for me is that she respects kids.  Plain and simple.  The focus of her storytimes aren’t the songs, rhymes, or books – it’s the kids who attend them and their ideas, opinions, and observations.  She even says – “the child’s voice is crucial to the success of a dynamic and, yes, playful storytime experience.” I feel like that’s a philosophy I’ve been trying to put into practice for a long time now, and Megan’s book has given me some great ideas for how to make it happen.

One of the biggest things I took away from this book is to SLOW DOWN.  Like, a lot.  Sometimes I think back on storytimes where I tried to squeeze in 4 or 5 picture books to a group of preschoolers in 30 minutes.  Looking back, I see so many missed opportunities to listen.  In fact, one of my favourite quotes from Megan is: “I rededicated myself to listening – really listening – to what children had to say about the books I read with them instead of just listening for them to say things that I’d already considered.”  WHOA. Now that’s keeping it real, folks.

I admire how Megan’s Whole Book Approach also seeks to keep the tone of storytime playful.  She shares numerous examples of the hilarious and insightful things kids have said during a reading with her.  During one of my recent preschool visits, a 3-year-old girl told me, “you need rain clouds to make frozen yogurt.”  I eventually realized this had to do with her understanding of temperature and ice cream, but this little nugget would have never come about if I hadn’t spent time talking about the front matter which was covered in clouds.  At the end of Reading Picture Books with Children, Megan provides an array of prompts and questions you can use in your own storytimes to elicit these types of discussions.

This is one of those professional development books that I’ll read again and again as I try out the strategies of the Whole Book Approach.  Megan’s model positions “the picture book as a meeting space for child and adult,” and that’s a message that rings true to me in both my personal and professional lives.

For More Information:

Kirkus Review

School Library Journal: An Interview with Megan Dowd Lambert

Megan Dowd Lambert on Twitter

Full Disclosure: I received no payment, no ARCs, no monetary reimbursement of any kind for writing this review.  I simply read the book, loved it, and wanted to share it with others. I received Megan’s permission to include the quotations from her book.

YouTube: A User’s Guide to Creating Storytime Videos

There are lots of things we get asked: can I link to your content? What are your storytime tips for someone just getting started? Who are Glasses and Dimples?! But the one question we get asked which is near and dear to our hearts is how do I get started on YouTube. As two freshly pressed Children’s Librarians we set out on the rocky seas of online videos without any navigational training. Now, over two years of creating and posting content under our belts we thought it was high time to share our best practices.

Check out our first blooper reel for maximum appreciation of how much time has passed! Then vow never to watch another one of our blooper reels.

Setting up your channel and making things findable

  • You don’t need all the gizmos and gadgets: YouTube’s Creator Studio has easy to navigate tabs which help you manage your videos and grow your channel. When it comes to uploading, YouTube Help has useful FAQ’s and there’s even a video editor within the Creator Studio to make it that much easier!
  • Make and maintain playlists: Many of us work in libraries and like being able to find stuff, right? Well the same goes for your YouTube channel (and blog too!) Creating and maintaining playlists allows people to easily browse your content which becomes more important with each new video you add. These serve as access points for older content and are super useful for us busy-multi-tasking-letmejustthrowthiscrafttogether-types who like to have videos playing while they do other things.
  • Include as much information as possible: Not to sound like a broken wheel but we library folk know that the more information you can include in a record the easier it will be to find. So, include the words to the song or rhyme in the video, include who taught you the song or where it comes from, include a link to your blog, include EVERYTHING! Not only does this mean a higher quality video for your viewer, because you’ve included the words but you’ve also just increased the video’s searchability. Yay!  This goes for your “About” section as well. Remember that people from all over the world will be viewing your channel, not just your local patrons, so include the province or state you’re in or heck even the country. Can you be found on other social media platforms? Include those too- make it easy! Ok, rant over.

sepiaMe asking my Lindsey if we really need to add the words to every video. Her laughing at me.

Being a Responsible YouTube Citizen

  • Update content regularly: Remember library school when you had to do an assignment on libraries and social media? It was all the rage! The trouble is many folks get off to a great start on YouTube and upload a truckload (say it ten times fast!) of videos and then find it difficult to keep up. When you’re getting set up add a solid handful and then have an honest conversation with your Lindsey (oh, I’m the only one with a Lindsey?!) or yourself about how often you’ll be able to create. We film 10-20 videos every couple of months and then upload a new one each week. This means our channel always has new content without either of us feeling overwhelmed.
  • Be respectful of copyright and content: Because we deal in children’s music (most of which is in the public domain) and have cultivated relationships with other professionals in the field we’ve never gotten in any serious copyright trouble. As long as you do your absolute best to credit the song and/or share who you learned it from this should be sufficient when it comes to songs for children. We’ve had artists claim songs we’ve done and we simply ask their permission, add that information to the box below the video and thank them profusely. If someone asked us to take down a song we absolutely would. YouTube is a very participative space and while it lacks the formal, written copyright rules we might be used to in print following these best practices has been successful for us thus far. We swear this post is not sponsored by Youtube (in fact it was inspired by a question about copyright!) but their Copyright Centre is a great place to start if you’re recording music which is not your own and for information specific to Canadian copyright and materials within the public domain we found UBC’s Copyright Centre to be quite helpful.
  • Subscribe, show love! The strength in our professional community is in our numbers: the more people using this medium to share video content, the better we all get. And even if you’re not ready to start uploading just yet challenge yourself to check out new channels, give the old thumbs up to videos you like and share, share, share.
  • For some examples of folks we love on YouTube scroll all the way down to Other People Making Videos.

We’re looking forward to a post in the Fall from Belleville Public Library all about their newly minted library YouTube channel and the lessons they’ve learned, so as they say in the business STAY TUNED! In the meantime please leave questions, your own best practices or resources you’ve found helpful when it comes to creating and sharing video content in the comment box below.

5 Tips for Youth Services Bloggers

Welcome to the world of youth services blogging.  There’s kind of a lot of us! Dana and I have been blogging here at Jbrary for over two years now, and I finally feel knowledgeable enough to write this post.  Though not the most glamorous topic, I wanted to spend some time talking about our website – how we’ve organized it, features we’ve added, what we blog about, and why we’ve made those decisions.

Blogging can be very personal, and this post is in no way meant to be a “One blog to rule them all” type of thing. We all make choices based on the reasons we blog and our personal aesthetics.  And there is certainly more than one way to do things effectively as a blogger. This post will simply explain Jbrary.

Here are five things we do in an effort to make Jbrary the best blog it can be.

1. Make it Findable

As librarians, we feel especially responsible for making our content findable.  What happens to a blog post after it’s been published? Can people still easily find it a year later? Here’s what we’ve done to make our content findable:

  • Navigation Bar: We created different tabs in our navigation bar that organize our content. These tabs have definitely changed over the past two years, but that’s just part of being a new blog and figuring your shit out.  We tried to think about the different people who use our blog and what they might want to find. One of the bigger decisions we made was to separate out our “storytime” and “school-age” programs.
    naivagtion bar 2If you click on either of these links you will see ALL of our posts for each category even further organized by age group or topic. We hope this makes it easy to browse our content and find what you’re looking for (or perhaps stumble upon something you didn’t even know you were looking for!).
  • Categories or Tags: For a long time we had a tag cloud in the sidebar, but after looking at our analytics we changed it to a list called “Categories.”  Whenever we write a post, we classify it as one of the categories on the list. These categories are the same as the ones on the actual pages you can get to using our navigation bar, we’re just providing another way in. We put it on our sidebar so that people see it when they scroll down to read our blog posts. Here’s a zoomed out view of our website with a big red arrow pointing to our Categories feature.


  • Search Bar: We may be one of the few blogs left that still features a search bar, but we think it’s worth it to have in case someone doesn’t use the navigation bar and wants to find a specific post. If you have a blog and provide no other content organization, I highly recommend having a search bar!

2. Make it Connected

Blogging is only one of the social media platforms we use, and we want people to be able to easily link our social media accounts together. That’s why we feature our “Stay Connected” buttons at the top right of our sidebar.

connectedWe also link to our blog and our YouTube channel on our Twitter account where we’re most active. Again, just trying to make it easy for people to find us and connect all our different resources.

twitterLastly, we want Jbrary connected to all the other wonderful youth services folks blogging so we created a Blogroll featuring all of the active youth services blogs we know about.  Sometimes when we add a blog it sends an email to the blog owner and they learn about us too.

3. Make it Shareable

We need to give a huge shout out to Ingrid at The Magpie Librarian because she encouraged us to install a plugin that allows people to share individual posts.  Our plugin allows people to share via email, Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook. This feature makes it so much easier for other people to publicize our posts, and we try to return the favour as often as we can! Here’s what it looks like:

share buttons

4. Make it Personal

Not everyone has the luxury of being able to identify themselves and where they work, so we count ourselves lucky in that regard. We love having an “About Us” page that features pictures and a short description of who we each are. This also allows people to find our individual Twitter handles.  Whenever I find new blogs, the “About Page” is one of the first places I go to (maybe I’m just nosy!) – But I love learning the blogger’s name, what city they live in, and what their job is like. And for us in particular, we are among the few children’s librarians in Canada who blog so we want to highlight that fact and make it easy for others to find us. Lastly, we included a “Contact Us” feature here so people can email us with any questions.

5. Make it Interesting

When we first started to blog, we mainly posted thematic storytime outlines. And that was great – I don’t think there is anything wrong with just posting storytime outlines. Often it can serve as an organizational tool for the blogger in his or her own professional life. But we just found ourselves wanting to write about other stuff – like what it’s like to be an auxiliary librarian or why we think it’s okay to do holiday programming.  We also love doing series and really exploring a topic in depth. I think the variety you get on our blog is one of its strengths, and its something I look for in other blogs too.

So those are the five principals that have guided the creation and development of Jbrary as a website and blog. What advice would you give to library folks looking to start a blog? Is there something you do that we didn’t mention?  Leave us a comment and let’s discuss!

Favourite Pinterest Boards for Children’s Librarians

We love us some Twitter, but another place you’ll find us sharing ideas and aggregating resources is Pinterest.  Not only do we have over 50 thematic storytime boards which include book, song, rhyme, craft, and flannel story suggestions, but we also have a variety of other boards to support those of us working in youth services.  Looking for apps to use in storytime? Or how about what to read or sing in babytime? Maybe you’ve got a bulletin board that needs sprucing up? Or perhaps you just bought an iPod and you’d like to know what recorded music works in storytime? Looking for a collection of links to blog posts featuring STEAM library programs?  You get the idea. We like to pin things!

But so do lots of other folks!  We’d like to point out some of our favourite pinners and boards (in no particular order) for those of you who are looking for new ideas to bookmark and share.  This list is just the tip of the iceberg – there are so many other great ones out there! Please share your Pinterest account in the comments so we are sure to follow you!

1. Little eLit


No one knows apps for library programming better! I love how apps are broken down by age and by use (storytime vs. anytime).  But the best part is each pin has a description that includes the developer, age range, brief synopsis, and any pros or cons. It’s an app-at-a-glance!

2. Rebecca Dunn


Rebecca, who blogs at Sturdy for Common Things, took it upon herself to create a board featuring tactile activities for babies after a Twitter conversation sparked the idea. I also love her Tournament of Kids’ Books board because I’ve adapted her display for a summer reading program here in Vancouver.

3. Leah Pearce


Our B.C. friend who blogs at Time for Storytime! Leah has boards broken down by season and common programs. I know we’ve tweeted about it all spring, but she also has an amazing SRC 2014 board with so many ideas for our theme this year- Funny Business. Making us Canadians look good!

4. Flannel Friday


All your flannel story needs organized in every which way you can imagine!  A great resource to go to when you can’t remember where you saw that cute duck flannel matching game. But they also have other types of storytelling props such as Draw and Tell Stories and Folder Stories.

5. Thrive Thursday


This is my go to browsing resource when I want to get ideas for school age programming.  Lisa does a fabulous job of linking back to all the original blog posts so you know you’re getting directed to high quality blogs. I can definitely see this account growing in the future!

Continue reading “Favourite Pinterest Boards for Children’s Librarians”

The Bell Awards Blog Tour: Sing!

CLEL Bell AwardsWe are so excited to be joining the Bell Awards Blog Tour today!  In this post we’ll be featuring our favorite picture books that support the early literacy skill of singing.  Singing is not only crucial for language development, but we also think it’s super fun!  It slows down language for kids, breaks words into smaller sounds, and helps them distinguish similar sounding words.  Singing never stops being important – from newborns to teens, the benefits abound.  To see an expanded list of our favourites, check out our Storytime Books to Sing Pinterest board.

So what are the Bell Awards?  As Melissa Depper aptly states, “The Bell Awards are designed to support parents, caregivers, librarians, and early childhood professionals by celebrating great picture books that model and inspire the early literacy practices of reading, writing, singing, talking, and playing with young children. You can join in and share your expertise with your colleagues by nominating titles and adding to the conversation on the CLEL blog.”  See the end of our post for more information about joining the conversation.

Our Picks: Picture Books That Support Singing

1. The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort

The Seals on the BusIn this hilarious take on “The Wheels on the Bus,” join a family as they experience a true menagerie of exotic animal sounds. Hiss along with the vipers, honk with the geese, and arp with the seals.  Parents appreciate the familiar tune, while kids delight in the silliness of the sounds and illustrations.  The new host of animal sounds results in a rich phonological experience. Our runner-up for a “Wheels on the Bus” spin-off is The Babies on the Bus because who can resist Karen Katz’s round-faced tots?!

2. I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!Take that piece of grass out of your teeth because your gonna need to get your twang on for this one! We’ll forgive the questionable illustrations because this book, based on a traditional folk song, has so many other redeeming qualities. Not only can you sing along with ease, Beaumont uses a suspended rhyme scheme pattern which encourages kids to guess the rhyming end word for each verse of the song.  Excellent for making predictions based on rhyme and sound, this book follows a young child on his (or her) colorful journey of artistic expression.

3. I Got Two Dogs by John Lithgow

I Got Two DogsWe may not be on the third planet from the sun anymore, but actor John Lithgow still delivers an infectious tale of two dogs, Fanny and Blue. Families with dogs will easily relate to the shenanigans of Fanny and Blue as the narrator describes their personalities.  In addition to the great rhythm, Lithgow includes playful language that encourages kids to stretch words (i.e. “Whooooooooooo”).  You don’t have to sing this book, but you may find the book starts to sing itself.

4. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

The GruffaloThis is author Julia Donaldson’s best known tale, and for good reason. The Gruffalo is a hilarious story told all in seamless rhyme in which a mouse out-smarts all the creatures of the forest, including the gruffalo with his “terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws”. The magic of Donaldson’s narrative is the repetitive and rhythmic frame which allows even the very young to participate. With each animal however, the vocabulary changes slightly to challenge readers with more unusual words. This book has developed into a songbook and several accompanying titles because it’s so delightfully pleasing to read, chant or sing!

5. Mortimer by Robert Munsch

MortimerWe’d be remiss if we didn’t include one of Canada’s greatest children’s authors, Robert Munsch! In this tale, a young boy named Mortimer is determined to “make my noise all day” no matter how many of his family members tell him to be quiet.  The repetition of sounds, such as the “whap, whap” of the footsteps on the stairs, makes it easy for children to participate in the telling and retelling of the story.  We also love how singing is incorporated into the daily life of a family, though Munsch gives us an ironic version of a “lullaby.”  Best of all, families can personalize this book by inserting their child’s name and his or her family members into the bedtime tale.

And those are our favorite books that encourage singing in pre-readers.  Now it’s your turn!  If you have favorites that have been published in 2013, nominate them for the 2014 CLEL Blog Awards.  Nominations are accepted up until November 15th and the winners are announced February 15, 2014.  Here’s how!

And don’t miss the other stops on the Bell Awards Blog Tour!

WRITE with Amy at The Show Me Librarian

TALK with Mary Ann at Great Kid Books

READ with Laura at LibLaura5

PLAY with Anna at Future Librarian Superhero