The Whole Book Approach in READING PICTURE BOOKS WITH CHILDREN focuses on helping caregivers and educators use the art and design of picture books to enhance meaning and encourage an interactive experience for each child. Educator Megan Dowd Lambert, in association with The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, leads readers through the parts of a book — the cover and jacket, the type, the size and shape, and page design — and how each can help create a more meaningful experience when sharing a picture book with children.
While some of us will assert that we already do this, ad nauseam, with the young people in our lives, the author’s attention to each section asks us to slow down, take another look, and deeply consider if what we are doing is conscious or a default. Considering the amount of times children will ask for the same picture book again and again, the Whole Book Approach makes sense and will help children fully experience books even as the adults in their lives stay sane while deepening their appreciation for the artistry that goes into even the most seemingly simple picture book.
A particularly poignant moment that demonstrates the Whole Book Approach beautifully appears in the Visual Overtures chapter regarding endpapers. The author admits, “I didn’t realize how very much I was missing until I slowed down enough to let a child expand upon this observation [about colors in the endpapers].” The child pointed out, and the other children agreed, that the colors at the end of Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? include the colors of all the animals in the book, in order. This is something that Dowd Lambert had never connected. She learned the basic philosophy for what she explains as her Whole Book Approach: Slow down, listen carefully, and allow children to voice their observations completely.
While some caregivers will find this approach too heavy-handed for everyday attention, others, and definitely preschool and elementary teachers will see its usefulness in fostering observation, risk-taking, detail-oriented description, and enjoyment of a picture book as a visual and narrative experience. The language is accessible to parents and caregivers, whether or not they have an education or art background. And the varied examples of picture books throughout the text will help homes and classrooms build their own libraries with rich and diverse stories.
Review by Kristin Wald