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.

14 thoughts on “Reading Picture Books With Children by Megan Dowd Lambert

  1. Hooray for light bulbs!

    Thanks so much for this enthusiastic, thoughtful review of my book! I am so glad it resonated with you, and I’d love to hear from you and others who give the Whole Book Approach a try and end up with anecdotes about rainclouds and frozen yogurt or other such things.

    Megan @MDowdLambert

    1. I’d love to write a follow-up post in a few months highlighting my observations and experiences trying out the Whole Book Approach. I’m especially excited to try it out with the K-3 students who visit the library. Thanks so much, Megan!

    1. Yes, it was so nice to see the approach in action!

    2. That’s great! Where do you teach? The Simmons College graduate course I’m teaching on the Whole Book Approach at The Carle (July 7-10) includes opportunities for students to observe me leading storytimes, and I’m hoping we can record some.

      1. I’m an adjunct at UTexas Austin and a Youth Librarian at Austin Public. We (the preschoolers and I) talked about the end papers in Pete the Cat just yesterday. 🙂

  2. Just read Megan’s book too. It has also given me a brand new way after 20+ years to look at picture books with children. Everyone who works with children and reading, should read this book. I’m illustrations and endpapers in a brand new way!!

    1. How wonderful to find something that opens our minds to new ways of discovering picture books. It’s exactly how I felt too 🙂

    2. What a lovely comment! As you know from my book, it’s fair to say that I began with the endpapers when I started to develop the Whole Book Approach. Thanks for the book love!

  3. Can you give tips on how to do this with large crowds? What do you do if a child, or multiple children, want to talk on and on? Also, sometimes I don’t understand what they are saying, but don’t want to dismiss their thoughts.

    1. Ah, the case of the chatty kids! I’ll start with the second point. If I didn’t hear what a child said I would do one of two things: ask them to say it again, or, if we are short on time I would use a blanket statement like, “We have so many interesting things to say today. I can tell you all really like this book. Now let’s get back to the story.” For the first question, I know it can seem like a problem but what a great problem to have! A group of excited and engaged kids who are interacting with the story as you read! If you’d like to control the amount of talking the kids do during a reading, you could try asking them specific questions as you read such as, “How is the character feeling right now?” It might also help to direct the question at a specific child by using their name. That way you’re also teaching about turn-taking. If a kid wants to talk on and on in the middle of a story I might wait for them to stop and then say, “I’m interested to hear what you have to say, but let’s finish reading first. You can tell me all about it during our craft/snack/stamp time. Are we ready to find out what happens next?” It’s important to acknowledge them but also help redirect them. I’ve let Megan know about your question and she may chime in with some answers of her own. You could also try searching the Storytime Underground Facebook page for something like “chatty kids” or “talkative kids” and see if anyone else has asked a similar question. I wish you all the best!

  4. Just so you know, your Storytime Underground link now goes to a poker website.

    1. Thanks for the heads up! I have removed the link.

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