A New Kind of Storytime?

One of my greatest regrets about leaving home is that I don't get to see my five-year-old niece, Riley, very often. But, lucky for me, I got the opportunity to video chat with her this week (bless technology!). One of the greatest challenges about video chat, though, is remembering that not everything you do can be seen. And this becomes particularly important when you're reading picture books. Or so I've come to realize.

Simmons faculty Megan Lambert teaches a method of reading picture books called the Whole Book Approach. This is basically just a way of interacting with the picture book as an art form. When reading via this approach, children are asked to engage in a dialogue about the text. They move from being passive listeners to active participants in the story. Though I haven't (yet) been formally trained in this approach, Megan demonstrates it often in her classes. If you're curious, you can learn more about this method by taking her course at the Eric Carle Museum this summer.

Anyways, I tried to use the Whole Book Approach with my niece during our webcam storyime. This was as much a validating experience as it was a troubling one. We were able to pay attention to most parts of the story proper but video chat made interacting with the whole book difficult. Smaller images disappeared in the pixelated graphics. Because of this, I often had to hold the page closer to the webcam for Riley to pick up on certain things--and then I felt as though I was mediating her reading. I was choosing what to show her, which didn't give her the autonomy the Whole Book Approach allows for.

As much as I enjoyed practicing some of the things I've been learning at Simmons, I was also struck by the circumstances in which I was reading to my niece. How cool is it, first of all, that our current technology allows for a bedtime story (or in my case, four) in a highly personal way? I think it's incredible. I never imagined that I would ever be in a place where this sort of reading would become necessary, but I imagine I'm not alone. There have to be parents who work away from home or can't be around who have to settle for this kind of interaction. This brings me to my second point: I feel like someone could make a lot of money developing software to make webcam reading easier. Or maybe I just need to get a better camera.

Either way, I recommend you try it out. If you don't have a child in your life, read to your friends. You never know when this sort of skill might come in handy. Maybe someday Simmons will even teach a class. What say you to that?

Children's Literature


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