At last week’s Lit-Fest, keynote speaker Megan Lambert spoke about her Whole Book Approach to sharing picture books with groups of children. This method invites children to “read the pictures” while the adult reads the words, creating a space to meet together in the picture book. She describes this method as “reading with children” as opposed to “reading to children.” An opening question adult readers can ask is: “What do you see happening in this picture?” Technical elements such as trim size and endpapers are also great places to invite discussion. Lambert was well-prepared with examples, anecdotes from her experience, and research on how children learn.
Lambert made it clear that the Whole Book Approach is only one method of sharing picture books with children – a method she used for ten years at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Not all children take to it right away; some pushback she’s received has come from kids who can, as Lambert puts it, “do school.” They might say to her, “Why can’t you just read the story all the way through without stopping?” But when she explains that they are practicing reading the pictures, she finds that the kids who can “do school” are eager to learn this kind of reading, too.
Lambert’s Whole Book Approach is based on a teaching method called Visual Thinking Strategies. To learn more about VTS, visit their website. Look for Lambert’s column in The Horn Book called “Books in the Home” and her blog posts about reading with children.