An Introduction to the Whole Book Approach

Cover of Reading Picture Books With ChildrenMegan Dowd Lambert presented a webinar on the Whole Book Approach through the Massachusetts Library System last month; I heard about it from Rhonda Cunha, the speaker at January’s Youth Services Interest Group meeting (more on that soon), and carved out time to watch it recently. Megan’s presentation was excellent, and I’m planning to read her book as well (Reading Picture Books with Children, Charlesbridge, 2015). Here are some highlights from her introduction to the Whole Book Approach in the MLS webinar.

“The Whole Book Approach is a co-constructive model created by Megan Dowd Lambert in association with the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art that centers children’s responses to picture book art and design.”

Megan emphasized that it’s an approach, not a method or a script. “Co-constructive” means that the storytime is interactive: kids are making meaning during the storytime, it’s not a performance by the adult reader. We are reading with children (discussion), not reading to them (performance).

Main tips/takeaways:

Cover of The Very Hungry Caterpillar

  • Engage children with a book they know already (e.g. The Very Hungry Caterpillar).
  • Ask open-ended questions (“What do you see happening here? What do you see that makes you say that? What else can we find?”).
  • Use picture book design and production terminology (jacket, case, orientation, trim size, gutter, etc.) to empower children to become experts about books.

Don’t be “the sage on the stage,” be “the guide on the side,” Megan advised. The group makes meaning together; facilitate responses, don’t correct responses. Be alert to nonverbal responses as well. For those – librarians, teachers, or caregivers – who are concerned that this approach will make storytime too rowdy, Megan offered techniques to redirect children’s attention when necessary, and advice for what to say to adults who may have concerns about the Whole Book Approach:

  • Point to the book and say “Eyes on art!”
  • “1,2,3 page turns”: If discussion wanders too far/long, wrap it up by saying, “We’ve had such a great conversation about this picture, let’s see what happens next. Count with me… 1,2,3 [turn page].”
  • Broaden the frame for a successful storytime: “That was a really busy storytime, but there are lots of different ways to measure success about storytime. Kids were excited about books, wanted to talk about their ideas and their feelings – that’s successful.”

Megan said she did not use themes in her storytimes, but chose books that she loved and wanted to share. Here are a few (not all!) of the ones she mentioned: Saturday by Oge Mora, This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, and Nine Months by Miranda Paul.

A lot of content was packed into an hour-long webinar, and I can already tell that my next storytime is going to be a little different: more open-ended questions, more time spent looking at the cover art. Thank you, Megan and MLS!

 

Step into Storytime, February 10

Storytime books with bowls of crayons

There was a big group for storytime this morning, about 15 kids plus their adults, and many of them were at the younger end of our age group. I put out some extra colored sitting mats because I could tell not everyone would fit on the rug. Fortunately, most of my books today were relatively short and simple, and/or had an interactive component, and most of the group stayed through till the craft at the end.

  • Welcome and announcements (library is closed next Monday for Presidents’ Day)
  • “Hello Friends” with ASL
  • “The More We Get Together” with ASL
  • Mr. Scruff by Simon James: I adore this new book, which reminds me of Let’s Get A Pup, Said Kate by Bob Graham, but is much shorter and therefore perfect for two- and three-year-olds. There are person-and-dog rhyming pairs (e.g. Molly and Polly), and then there’s Mr. Scruff and Jim…who make a perfect pair, even though their names don’t rhyme.
  • Quick wiggle: Wiggle fingers up to the sky, down by our toes, out to the sides (if you can without hitting a neighbor), repeat.
  • Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer: One of my all-time favorite books to read at storytime. Everyone can identify with the grumpy penguin who washes away his mood by taking a nice cold bath.
  • Song cube: “ABCs” and “Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” The latter we sang three times: regular, slow, fast. This is a simple way to change it up and the kids are usually into it – it’s like a game.
  • My Heart Is Like A Zoo by Michael Hall: I explained that all of the animals in the book were made with heart shapes, and asked if anyone knew what holiday was coming up on Friday (Valentine’s Day). I pulled my felt animals out and the kids identified them (except the clam, which is a tricky one); once they were on the felt board, I asked them to point to them when we got to that animal in the book (clam, crab, owl, penguin, frog). They did great!felt board tickle monster
  • Tickle Monster by Edouard Manceau: There are a lot of pieces to this felt creation, so I asked the kids for help to put it together. I propped up the book cover so they could see what Tickle Monster was supposed to look like, then pulled the felt pieces out one by one and they told me what each one was and where to put it.
  • Yoga cube: Warrior one, forward fold, half lift, chair pose (with our invisible chairs, of course). Then some bilateral, cross-the-midline movement: touching right hand to left foot and left hand to right foot.
  • The Button Book by Sally Nicholls and Bethan Woollvin: This is a new book that invites the reader to take part in the story by pushing different colored buttons and making sounds or doing actions (beep, thbbbt, tickle, hug, bounce, sing, etc.). It includes two songs (“Wheels on the Bus” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”) and is just generally fun and delightful – recommended for groups who like Don’t Push the Button! by Bill Cotter, Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson, There’s A Monster in Your Book by Tom Fletcher, Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda, etc.
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL
  • Clean up mats
  • Craft: color and glue paper hearts to butcher paper on the floor (or color hearts and take them home to give as valentines)

Step into Storytime *and* Preschool Storytime, February 3 & 4

 

Step into Storytime, February 3

  • Welcome and announcements
  • “Hello Friends” with ASL
  • “The More We Get Together” with ASL
  • Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel
  • The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury: A classic, and they can help count to three with Mama Frog.
  • Song cube: “ABCs” and “I’m A Little Teapot”
  • Yoga: mountain pose, forward fold/seated forward fold
  • Chicken Wants A Nap by Traci Marchini and Monique Felix
  • Mouse House game: Usually I save this for toward the end when the kids are getting wiggly and chatty, but in this case I moved it up because they were so quiet and I wanted to get them more engaged. (I know it’s possible to be engaged and quiet while listening to a book, but I felt like shifting gears would be helpful.) Needless to say, they were super into it, they love this game.
  • Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony
  • Song cube: “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” and “Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon” (I had the lyrics for the kookaburra song up, but decided not to sing it)
  • Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier: Our library copy was destroyed (every page scribbled on, some ripped), so I bought my own. It’s a simple but creative concept, nice and bright, and an easy tie-in craft.
  • “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with scarves. I handed out two each and we practiced waving them, throwing and catching them, then sang “Twinkle” in star pose, leaning or rocking back and forth.
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL
  • Craft: coloring with crayons and gluing “lots of dots” to butcher paper on the floor

Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play posters

Preschool Storytime, February 4

Due to the planned absence of another staff member, I got to do the preschool storytime this week! Attendance was lower than usual, just four preschool-age kids and one little sibling, and all five were boys. Two of them brought their own books that they looked through while I read the first two books, but all of them were responsive and engaged for songs and the mouse house game, and more interested in the last two books as well.

Stack of picture books

  • Welcome, introduction, announcements
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL (2x)
  • The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker and Mark Pett: I think at least two of the four were interested in this story, but it was hard to tell.
  • “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” and “Where Is Thumbkin?”
  • World Pizza by Cece Meng and Ellen Shi: This one felt a little long, especially after The Very Last Castle (which is also longer than I would do with 2- and 3-year-olds), but it’s got a big sneeze and some interesting pizza toppings (seaweed, spicy pepper, chocolate cherry), so we got to talk about pizza toppings afterward. And I only teared up the tiniest bit at the line, “And in that moment the world was filled with kindness and love and no fighting.”
  • Song cube: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “ABCs,” “Itsy-Bitsy Spider”
  • Princess Bess Gets Dressed by Margery Cuyler and Heather Maoine: Proof that boys can be into princess books! Especially if the book ends with underwear. We talked about our favorite outfits (costumes and pajamas, mostly).
  • The mouse house game: this has yet to fail. If you need a sure-thing felt board activity, this is it. (Hat tip to a children’s librarian in Belmont.)
  • There’s a Monster in Your Book by Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott: As close to a sure thing as there is in storytime. Everyone had fun chasing the monster out of the book, and then luring him back.
  • “Goodbye Friends” song with ASL
  • Clean up mats and put out craft: A big castle outlined in black on butcher paper, with crayons, markers, paper animal cutouts, and glue sticks.