Storytime with Children’s Picture Books at Business Meetings?

Heck, Yes!

Children’s picture books are not just for bedtime reading with our children or for a classroom read out loud. They can be used for adult meetings and gatherings, delivering artful and poignant messages. Above all, they are guaranteed to trigger warm childhood memories with the adult audience, eliciting smiles and comforting emotions.

In a previous blog, I put forth the case that picture books are not just for children. Typically, picture books are read to children, hence, adults become active participants in the visual and text experience. Although the plot line might appear trite, often the ‘simple story’ resonates in the subconscious of the adult, indirectly offering wisdom and inspiration. In addition, often it is the adults who choose the picture books that are purchased or selected off the bookshelf. We adults also have our favourite stories and want to share those that ignite our enthusiasm. Consequently, it appears that the picture book marketable audience includes both adults and children.

In today’s world where speed and marketing are supreme, more than ever there is an emphasis on conducting meetings with extreme efficiency. Leaders are constantly looking for ways to deliver sticky messages, provoke discussions, elicit creative emotions, and appeal to a variety of learning styles. Picture books are a powerful delivery method.

Picture books immediately hook back into childhood memories of snuggling up and reading. This was a time when many of us were able to connect with the special adults in our lives, quietly sharing sacredly reserved time of connection. It was a time to listen, question, discuss, giggle, be dramatic and maybe even cry. It was a time of safety and trust. Why not lean into this fond memory when sharing with fellow adults? Are we too sophisticated to lean into our inner child?

Reading a book out loud is an entertaining experience for both the listener and the reader. Meghan Cox Gurdon, in her book The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction, argues that reading aloud is a formidable method of sharing stories for all ages. During the pandemic, I blogged referencing Cox Gurdon and the inspiration she provided me to consider reading to and with my husband. She emphasizes that although initially it might seem weird to read to another adult, once engaged both the listener and the reader are transported into the world of imagination and joy.

The picture book is filled with complexity yet simplicity. It is packed with visual artistry (often intense and sophisticated) yet is delivered in a compact display of on average 32 pages. The result is a poignant message that can usually be orally delivered in less than 15 minutes. One can argue it is a mode of storytelling that competes with short videos while allowing for interaction between the audience and reader.

The messages found in picture books are timeless and wise. Classically, they provide reflections and lessons that are universal. They are often playful and fun, and many provoke us to think about our values and behaviour. A current prolific writer, Kobi Yamada, has written several picture books that could easily be an inspiring springboard for discussion with titles such as:

And the list goes on take a look.

Below are other articles by writers who believe the use of picture books has a place for adults and their suggested book list.

Even if you are uncomfortable incorporating picture books in a business meeting, why not periodically use them to start or end the day with your team with a reflective provocation? This could be done with a simple email and YouTube link (many children’s books are narrated on YouTube). Is your team struggling with negativity, forgiveness, or moving forward? Here is a link to a compelling picture book that addresses forgiveness and spirituality.

Last, you could extend this use of picture books to offer family support to your employees, by purchasing the books and keeping a family picture book library at the office that employees could sign out for read-out-louds at home. Grabbing an inspiring picture book on the way out of the office might offer a nice way for tired parents to leave the office behind and look forward to special 1:1 time with their children. It becomes a gentle reminder that although work is important our families are even more important.

Picture books speak to everyone’s inner child. They are a creative and efficient platform to ignite reflection and inspiration. Why not find a place for them in your office either at your next meeting in the office or on the bookshelf?