What is Shared Reading?

A Guide to Understanding Shared Reading in Education

Written by Paula Dugger on June 10, 2019

Shared Reading Definition

Shared reading is an interactive reading experience that takes place when students share the reading of a book with the help and assistance of a teacher. It is an opportunity for the students and the teacher to view, read orally, and have conversations using the same text. Along the way, the supportive teacher explicitly models strategies that proficient readers use during reading. Shared book reading is most commonly used in preschool and primary schools, especially in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms.

History Behind Shared Reading

"Shared reading is a collaborative literacy learning activity based on the research of Don Holdaway that emulates and builds from the child's experience with bedtime stories" (Parkes, B., 2000). Invented and developed by Holdaway in New Zealand, shared reading supports those children who have had limited experiences with print before entering school. He explained that shared reading connects students through shared feelings and experiences with texts. He discovered that some children had not had opportunities to experience reading activities such as "lap" or "bedtime" stories with family members. Those children often entered school lacking both early oral language skills and the joy experienced during shared storybook readings with a parent or adult.

Holdaway believed that when children can see the text during shared reading, they are better able to comprehend the role print plays in reading. Classrooms utilize big books during shared reading, due to their large text and overall size, so that a group of children can easily see the text. These features of big books help students focus their attention as they follow the story while learning to listen and read. Big books provide children with the same experience of lap reading many children encounter at home or at bedtime with their parents.

What Are Big Books?

Big books are highly appealing to readers of all ages, especially very young children. Big books, with dimensions too large for a backpack, are engaging to readers, young and old. Features and characteristics of big books that captivate readers include:

  • The overall size being an enlarged version of a book.
  • Large, bolded print that can be easily read from a distance.
  • Large, colorful pictures that are supportive of the story's meaning.
  • Simple text with one or two lines of print per page.

Shared Reading in Balanced Literacy

The shared reading approach to teaching reading is an instructional strategy within balanced literacy. It allows the teacher to engage students in authentic texts by providing shared literacy experiences. These experiences, in turn, help children develop reading strategies that characterize independent readers.

Balanced literacy incorporates four main instructional strategies for developing readers: read-alouds, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading. Each has its own features and characteristics that help guide students as they become successful readers. Shared reading falls between read-alouds and guided reading within the framework of balanced literacy. Read-alouds and shared reading are characterized by strong teacher support, leading to the gradual release of that support during guided reading and independent reading.

The Features of Shared Reading

How Long Should Shared Reading Last?

The shared reading schedule should designate fifteen minutes per day for up to five days to explore one book. Factors such as the age of the students, concepts to be taught, and book levels play an integral part in determining when to move on to a new story. However, readers should be given the opportunity to revisit and reread the shared reading books throughout the remainder of the year. This will help the books become part of their independent reading practice.

What Is Expected During Shared Reading?

The shared reading structure incorporates participation between the teacher and students during the reading of stories, as well as discussions and activities.

Teachers are expected to:

  • Provide a safe and enjoyable setting for learning.
  • Engage students in reading stories aloud as a group.
  • Model fluently phrased reading with expression.
  • Systematically and explicitly teach reading strategies that will assist students in becoming proficient and successful readers.
  • Use shared reading questions before and during a story to help students make connections using prior knowledge.
  • Help students record their thinking in the form of a shared reading graphic organizer such as an anchor chart.
  • Help students understand the reciprocity between shared reading and writing.
  • Gradually decrease the amount of support given to the child.

During shared reading, students are expected to:

  • Engage in the reading of the story.
  • Activate prior knowledge and make connections to the story that will help them with meaning.
  • Share in the discussion and join in activities related to the story.
  • Observe and focus on the modeling done by the teacher.
  • Participate in the building of shared reading anchor charts and graphic organizers for future reference.
  • Develop an understanding of the reciprocity between shared reading and writing.
  • Become more independent with each rereading of the story.

Shared Reading and Writing

Reading and writing are reciprocal. What is learned in reading helps in writing and what is learned in writing helps in reading. Reading is about taking words apart, while writing is about putting words together. A skilled teacher can use the reciprocity between the two to teach word-solving strategies that will increase both reading and writing vocabulary. A reader should be able to read what they write and write what they read because one learns with every reading and writing experience.

The shared reading lesson is a wonderful opportunity for students to collaborate with the teacher in the composing and writing of sentences about the story. After composing, students are invited to contribute what they know in the writing of the sentence(s), whether it be a letter, a word part, or whole word. The teacher fills in any information along the way, such as silent letters, that may be needed to complete the physical writing of the sentence.

Shared writing as a part of shared reading will enhance and accelerate learning in both reading and writing. It also helps teachers gather anecdotal information about students. By allowing students to share in the composing of sentences, they can share their knowledge of writing by:

  • Recording the appropriate letters that represent sounds they hear in words.
  • Supplying known words.
  • Supplying punctuation.

Shared Reading Teaching Points

Teaching points for shared reading vary depending on the grade level and complexity of the students' reading levels. As students move up in grade level, they bring with them more experience with print. A second-grade class would probably not need to learn about directionality or one-to-one matching while reading continuous text, but, certainly, pre-school, kindergarten, and first-grade students might. Below are five teaching points that can be used in shared reading with almost any book. These are appropriate for pre-school through first-grade-aged students:

  1. One-to-one matching.
  2. Directionality.
  3. Differences between letters and words.
  4. Making predictions.
  5. Modeling how phrased and fluent reading sounds with expression.

Shared Reading Anchor Charts

Anchor charts are instructional tools used to facilitate learning and support instruction. These shared reading graphic organizers provide a visual aid that allows the thinking of both the teacher and the students to become visible during the modeling and teaching of a reading strategy.

Using chart paper and colorful markers, it is easy to incorporate anchor charts into a shared reading lesson. It is best to create the framework for the chart ahead of time, giving it a title, a learning objective, and headings for strategies or main points.

During the lesson, students help fill in the blank spaces by using the chart as an interactive tool during the discussion. Students will be more likely to remember and comprehend the topic if they are actively engaged in producing a product during the lesson. Displayed throughout the classroom, charts can provide students with a reference and a way to problem-solve when working independently, saving the teacher valuable time.

However, it should be noted that not every lesson or strategy needs an anchor chart, so carefully choose anchor charts that display strategies that will have the biggest influence on your students and their learning.

Shared Reading Assessment

It is important for teachers to monitor instruction and student progress throughout shared reading. Assessment is used to inform instruction. Assessments help:

  • Identify skills that need to be taught.
  • Monitor student progress.
  • Guide instruction.
  • Determine the effectiveness of instruction.

How to Assess Shared Reading

There are many assessments, both formal and informal, that can be used to assess literacy knowledge in shared reading. Local school districts and states require specific tests or assessments by teachers to provide a unified collection of data. However, teachers often create their own assessments for personal use and information. Below are several suggestions for assessing students:

  • Informal anecdotal notes based on observations made by the teacher to help monitor the progress of individuals or groups of students. These can be used with any age student.
  • The Observation Survey of Literacy Instruction (by Marie Clay) is a one-on-one assessment with six subtests. It helps measures those early concepts and skills explicitly taught by the teachers during shared reading with beginning readers. The six subtests are:
    • Letter Identification
    • Sight Word Knowledge
    • Concepts about Print
    • Writing Vocabulary
    • Hearing & Recording Sounds in Words
    • Running Records
  • Running Records are individually administered formative assessments. Administered individually to children, they provide a written recording of a student's oral reading and should be done frequently to monitor individual reading progress. A child's independent, instructional reading levels can be determined with this assessment. Running records can be administered to students of any reading level.

The Purpose of Shared Reading

The Goal of Shared Reading

The goal of shared reading is to introduce children to the reading process while systematically and explicitly teaching them how to become successful readers and writers. It allows an opportunity for the whole class to participate in and enjoy reading texts that most students are not yet ready to read independently, in a non-threatening environment.

Shared reading provides children with enjoyable literacy experiences with the support of a knowledgeable teacher. Children are introduced to different authors, illustrators, and types of texts. Their oral language and vocabulary skills expand and develop quickly with carefully selected texts. As a result, children gradually learn how to orchestrate the skills and strategies used by proficient readers while reading.

Shared Reading Objectives

There is a wide range of objectives that can be taught during shared reading. Each grade level has literacy and language objectives that can be targeted within shared reading. Here is a sampling of objectives for kindergarten and first grade:

  • Develop print awareness:
    • Identify parts of a book and their function.
    • Demonstrate an understanding of directionality.
    • Demonstrate an understanding of voice-print match using one-to-one matching when listening to or reading familiar text aloud.
    • Identify the title, name of the author, and the name of the illustrator.
  • Develop and apply enabling strategies and skills to read and write.
  • Identify the sequence of events in a story.
  • Predict possible events in the text before and during reading.
  • Make connections to one's own experiences and ideas in other texts.
  • Retell or act out important events in the story.

Effectiveness of Shared Reading

Research supports the power of shared reading. Among the findings concerning reading to children, research indicates that:

  • Reading to children provides them with opportunities to positively experience the act of reading. (Cummings, 2007; Thomson, Hillman and DeBortoli, 2013).
  • Students who are engaged and motivated readers perform better on comprehension tasks (Cummings, 2007; Thomson, Hillman, and DeBortoli, 2013).
  • Children do not automatically know how to use reading strategies. Thus, it is imperative that they see and hear teachers model these strategies during reading, while explaining them, in order to develop them on their own. (Rogoff, 1995; Vygotsky, 1978).

The Benefits of Shared Reading

Why Is Shared Reading Beneficial?

The whole class benefits by being able to participate together during shared reading. The teacher is able to engage all students using a single text to introduce them to the reading process. By modeling and explicitly teaching reading strategies from the text, the teacher helps guide novice readers a step closer to becoming proficient and independent readers.

Why Is Shared Reading Important?

The value of share reading is giving children the opportunity to:

  • Actively engage in literacy with the entire class while allowing for a non-threatening and successful experience with a book.
  • Connect and learn with others through a shared and common experience.
  • Hear what phrased and fluent reading should sound like when the teacher models reading aloud.
  • Practice phrased and fluent reading by rereading texts orally.
  • Receive explicit and systematic instruction on strategies used by proficient readers.
  • Develop reading strategies with repeated opportunities for practice.
  • Discover how meaning and visual and structural cues can help in reading.
  • Expand vocabulary while becoming familiar with high-frequency sight words.
  • Use and build background information as they encounter various types of text.

Why Use Big Books in the Classroom?

Shared reading employs the benefits of using big books in the classroom. Big books are especially helpful in kindergarten classrooms where most children are learning how to read for the first time. The advantages of big books in the classroom include:

  • Allowing the whole class to participate together as one group, with every eye on a single large book. The teacher is better able to engage all students at the same time.
  • The opportunity for every student to read a book or hear a book read out loud together while visually following along in the text.
  • The large text, which makes it easier for students to follow along with the teacher, while the teacher models fluency or strategies.
  • "Having the print enlarged serves as a concrete focus for the reading act." The novelty of a large book also attracts the curiosity of young children and holds their interest, which is especially significant for young children who have shorter attention spans (Combs, 1987).

Why Is Reading Out Loud Important?

Reading out loud during shared reading is important in preschool, kindergarten, and first-grade classes where many young children are still developing language skills. Children acquire language before becoming literate, so being able to understand and use language precedes being able to read and write. Hearing language spoken out loud influences the development of language skills. From there, literacy skills begin to develop. Literacy abilities students acquire from shared reading include:

  • Increased vocabulary.
  • Phrased and fluent reading.
  • New connections between the spoken and written word.
  • Understanding how stories work.
  • Enhanced listening skills, which can increase attention span.

How to Do Shared Reading in a Classroom

How Do You Do Shared Reading?

In shared reading, the teacher and children read together from the same text. Usually, the texts are oversized books with very large print and illustrations. By using large printed texts for shared reading, everyone can follow the words as the teacher reads or engages the class in reading together.

Shared reading highlights one text over the course of a week. The first day with a new book centers on the meaning and enjoyment of the story. Day two through five focus on the rereading of the text for fluency and expression, with the attention on explicitly teaching strategies that characterize proficient readers. In a nutshell, this is how shared reading is done.

Teachers should spend fifteen minutes per day and approximately five days per week on a book. Factors such as student age, teachable concepts or strategies, and book level play an integral part in determining when to move on to a new story. However, young readers should be given the opportunity to revisit and reread the books introduced to them in shared reading throughout the year.

Some teachers begin their lessons with a shared reading warm-up, using a familiar short poem or story to practice skills such as fluency before the introduction of a new story. Additionally, shared reading followed by sentence writing offers a way for students to see how reading and writing are linked to each other. Below is a simple plan that shows the expectations of the students and the teacher, and what happens during shared reading. It best reflects how to do shared reading in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade.

Day 1 Days 2-5
Story Introduction Working and Responding to the Story


  • Engages students in pre-reading activities.
  • Reads the story aloud to the students for the first time.
  • Rereads the story aloud with the students.
  • Follows up with discussion.


  • Engages the students in a shared rereading of the story.
  • Sets the purpose for reading.
  • Uses shared reading comprehension questions to help prompt discussions and thinking.
  • Models a reading strategy and uses think-alouds to demonstrate the thinking process behind the strategy.
  • Optional: Presents an anchor chart for the student to help complete to support the learning of a strategy for now and as a future reference.
  • Provides students with literacy-focused activities, related to the story, while the teacher works with small guided reading groups.
  • Students are expected to:

    • Participate in pre-reading activities.
    • Listen to the teacher read the story aloud.
    • Join in with the shared second and subsequent rereadings of the story.
    • Participate in discussion.

    Students are expected to:

    • Engage in the shared rereading of a story with the teacher.
    • Participate in discussions about the story.
    • Observes the teacher modeling and demonstrating strategies.
    • Participate in activities within the lessons that the teacher is modeling or demonstrating.
    • Work independently on literacy-focused activities related to the story while the teacher works with small groups of students.
    • Participate in a small-group lesson with the teacher that targets a specific skill or strategy.

    Shared Reading Questions

    Questioning plays an important role in teaching literacy during shared reading. Teachers model and prompt with questions before, during, and after the reading of the story to help guide students’ thinking and discussions. Here are a few sample questions to ask during shared reading:

    Before Reading
    • Look at the cover. Can you predict what will happen in the story?
    • What makes you think that?
    • Does this story make you think of anything that you have read or done?
    During Reading
    • What do you think will happen next?
    • What are you wondering about as you read?
    • Can you predict how this story is going to end?
    After Reading
    • Were your predictions about the story right?
    • What was your favorite part of the story?
    • Did you like the way the story ended? Why or why not?
    • What did you learn from this story?

    Shared Reading with Older Students

    Commonly used in the lower elementary grades to support the development of early reading skills, shared reading also has advantages for older students in upper grades, including middle and high school. The implementation will vary depending on the grade level, lesson focus, and the difficulty of the text. In lower grades, shared reading often involves big books, while older students will only have access to regular-sized books. Older students will do shared reading with partners, in small groups, or with the whole class supported by the teacher. Shared reading can help older students with:

    • Improvement in their attitudes toward reading.
    • Increased ability to read a wide range of diverse texts.
    • Success in reading by sharing the task collaboratively with other readers.
    • Connection to other students, by using a common text and experience, as with younger students.

    Designing a Shared Reading Area

    In many preschool and elementary classrooms, teachers set aside an area in the room for students to come together, seated on the floor, for story time or shared reading. The area should be large enough for the whole class to sit comfortably and see both the teacher and the big book displayed on an easel. The teacher holds the book facing the students during the initial introduction to the story, focusing on the book’s cover before returning it to the easel for reading. Because of their large size, it is much easier to keep big books open while resting on an easel. It also helps to free up the teacher’s hands, allowing them to turn pages and point to words, etc.

    A shared reading pointer is often found in the shared reading area. Teachers use the pointer with big books in place of their finger to show readers how to track print while reading. The pointer also makes it easier to highlight specific text features while teaching. Once students become familiar with the text, the pointer and task can be released to students as a motivational learning tool.

    Knowing where and how to store big books in classrooms might be a question for some teachers. Large wooden storage boxes and bins designed specifically for big books can be purchased from a number of companies. If looking for a creative or unique solution, websites like Pinterest have numerous do-it-yourself ideas for organizing and storing big books.

    Shared Reading Strategies

    The shared reading methodology is an instructional strategy used to help students become strategic readers. It begins by teaching children how to read using a shared text that is read aloud at first by the teacher, and then by the students, followed by shared thinking and discussions around the story.

    Shared reading offers the teacher opportunities to teach reading strategies before, during, and after reading a text. It allows students to learn strategies in the context of reading rather than as isolated skills. Children learn how books work, along with language, writing, comprehension and decoding skills. By using shared reading techniques teachers can:

    • Read aloud a story for the enjoyment of the students.
    • Reread the story aloud with the class to give support and a feel for success during their first reading.
    • Explicitly model fluency, phrasing, and expression in continuous text when reading out loud.
    • Invite students to participate in the thinking process of the story.
    • Using a big book to explicitly model the strategies and skills of proficient, such as:
      • Teaching print concepts:
        • Left-to-right.
        • Top-to-bottom.
        • Return sweep.
        • Left page before right page.
        • Matching one spoken word to one cluster of letters.
        • Differences between pictures and print.
    • Teaching text features of books such as:
      • Book cover.
      • Book title.
      • Book author.
      • Book illustrator.
      • Table of contents.
      • Glossary.
      • Index.
    • Locating familiar sight words.
    • Teaching children how to search for words using:
      • First letter.
      • First and last letters.
    • Building language and enhancing comprehension skills.
    • Teaching comprehension strategies such as:
      • Predicting before and during reading.
      • Activating prior knowledge.
    • Modeling skills and strategies to problem-solve when something doesn’t seem right, such as:
      • Asking, “Can you try that again? (Rereading to confirm or correct)
      • Asking, “Does it make sense?” or “Does it look right?”

    Comparing Shared Reading with Other Reading Strategies

    Shared Reading vs. Guided Reading

    Guided reading follows shared reading within the balanced literacy framework. It transfers some of the teacher responsibility found in shared reading to the child. Shared reading is done with a whole group, while guided reading is made up of small groups of students.

    Shared Reading Guided Reading

    Shared reading is an interactive reading experience that takes place with the joint reading and rereading of a book by students and the teacher in a whole group setting. The book level is just beyond what most students would be able to read instructionally or independently. Explicit instruction and modeling by the teacher help guide students into becoming proficient readers.

    Small groups of students reading at or near the same instructional reading level use teacher-selected books in guided reading. Following the teacher’s introduction of a new book, each student reads aloud within the group at his/her own pace. The teacher monitors the individuals and makes informed decisions that allow for differentiated instruction within each group. Targeted instruction provided to each group allows students opportunities to practice skills and strategies.

    Shared Reading vs. Read-Alouds

    In shared reading, the teacher reads with the students. In a read-aloud or interactive read-aloud, the teacher reads to the students. Both are done in a whole-group setting, and shared reading begins each new book with an interactive read-aloud.

    Shared Reading Read-Alouds/Interactive Read-Alouds

    Shared reading is an interactive reading experience that takes place when children share the reading and rereading of a big book with a teacher in a whole group setting. The text reading level is usually above the independent and instructional levels of most students. The students and the teacher are able to view, read aloud, and have conversations about the same text. Strategies to be used by proficient readers are modeled by the teacher.

    The goal of a read-aloud is to provide children with an enjoyable reading experience that allows them to focus on the story. The reading level of the text is above the students’ reading levels but at their listening level. By listening, they are introduced to complex ideas and are exposed to vocabulary and language patterns that are not always a part of their everyday speech.

    Shared Reading vs. Interactive Reading

    Shared reading is an interactive reading experience.

    Shared Reading Interactive Reading

    Shared reading is an interactive reading experience that takes place when children share the reading of a (big) book with the help and assistance of a teacher. It is an opportunity for the students and teacher to view, read aloud, and have conversations about the same text.

    The teacher reads aloud a specific text to students, occasionally pausing for discussion about the story. Interactive reading is embedded in shared reading.

    Shared Reading vs. Close Reading

    Shared reading is an interactive reading experience with strong teacher support. Close reading has low teacher support, and the student is expected to independently analyze the text.

    Shared Reading Close Reading

    Shared reading is an instructional strategy where teachers help students construct reading comprehension and fluency by providing graduated levels of support. This interactive reading experience is characterized by children sharing the reading of a (big) book with the help and assistance of a teacher.

    Close reading is a critical analysis of a text where students read and reread to uncover layers for a deeper understanding of the story. Students focus on main ideas and supporting details to develop ideas while reading the text. Students are prompted with questions to help guide them.

    Shared Reading vs. Independent Reading

    In shared reading, strategies are explicitly taught and modeled by the teacher to create independent readers. In independent reading, students take responsibility for their reading by using the skills and strategies learned in shared and guided reading.

    Shared Reading Independent Reading

    Shared reading is an interactive reading experience that takes place when children share the reading of a big book with the strong help and assistance of a teacher. The explicit instruction and modeling by the teacher help guide students into becoming independent readers.

    Independent reading allows individual students to self-select books of personal interest that can be read with 95–100% accuracy. Students are able to easily navigate and practice what they have learned about reading, with little or no support from the teacher.

    Shared Reading vs. Modeled Reading

    While these two types of reading are similar, the teacher does the reading in modeled reading, while in shared reading, the students and the teacher read the text together.

    Shared Reading Modeled Reading

    Shared reading is an interactive reading experience that takes place when children share the reading of a big book with the help and assistance of a teacher. Strategies and skills used by proficient readers are explicitly taught and modeled by the teacher during the subsequent rereadings of the story.

    Modeled reading is an instructional practice in which the teacher verbally models a reading process or a strategy to students. The text is read aloud to students while they listen and observe. The teacher demonstrates, through thinking aloud, the use of reading strategies that are characteristic of proficient readers.

    Shared Reading vs. Dialogic Reading

    In dialogic reading, the teacher or parent helps the child retell the story by becoming the teller of the story. In guided reading, students are learning how to read the story.

    Shared Reading Dialogic Reading

    Shared reading is an interactive reading experience that takes place when children share the reading of a big book with a teacher. The same text is reread again and again for fluency, with the teacher explicitly teaching strategies and skills used by proficient and independent readers.

    Dialogic reading is a strategy that allows children to become actively involved in the retelling of a teacher-selected story. Intended for use with individual or small groups of children, it enhances language and literacy skills.

    Shared Reading vs. Literature Circles

    Literature circles are small groups formed around a particular book, while shared reading is done in a whole group with strong teacher support. Both allow students to collaborate and work together on a text.

    Shared Reading Literature Circles

    Shared reading is an interactive reading experience that takes place when children share the reading of a big book with the teacher. The same text is reread again and again for fluency, with the teacher explicitly teaching strategies and skills used by proficient and independent readers. The teacher supplies strong support.

    Literature circles are small groups formed around a book interesting to the participants. Students independently read assigned parts of a text. Then, they bring a response regarding their assigned reading with questions to the circle to collaborate and learn from one another. The questions are guided by the students, not the teacher. Structured for student independence and responsibility, literature circles are flexible and will differ from group to group.

    Shared Reading vs. Lotta Lara

    Both shared reading and Lotta Lara use whole-group instruction with students to read together a single text. Lotta Lara is used exclusively with bilingual children, and it is more rigorous by targeting both fluent reading and oracy (the ability to express oneself fluently and grammatically in speech).

    Shared Reading Lotta Lara

    Shared reading is an interactive reading experience where children share the reading of a big book with the help and assistance of a teacher. Using a text that most students would not be able to read independently, students read the text together again and again. There is explicit instruction and modeling by the teacher to help guide students into becoming proficient and fluent readers.

    Lotta Lara is an interactive language strategy used to help bilingual children learn to read English texts. This repeated reading strategy enables emergent bilingual children to share the reading of English texts with their teacher and other students. Designed to build reading fluency, it provides an opportunity for oral language development accompanied by explicit attention or oracy. Lotta Lara is usually a three-day lesson in which teachers introduce a text, provide background and vocabulary instruction, and lead students in a guided repeated reading of the text that includes echo, choral and partner reading.

    Teaching Parents How to Do Shared Reading

    Parents can easily incorporate shared reading at home into their daily routines. The concept of shared reading originally evolved from parents reading bedtime stories to their children. Sharing a book either by listening to or reading with an adult can provide children with a lifetime of special memories and experiences.

    Parents don’t need big books when reading to their children. A regular-sized book should be easy to see when reading with one to three children. Everyone should be able to see the words and pictures and be close enough to help turn the pages.

    It is never too early to begin reading to a child. Reading aloud to a child begins at birth. As the infant begins to notice things, they may want to touch the book or help turn pages. In this case, it is recommended that board books (books made out of thick paperboard) be used since they are easier to hold and manipulate. They also hold up better to a baby’s rough use.

    Books with a limited number of words, books with rhythm and rhyme, books with repetitive phrases, and books with simple but colorful illustrations or pictures should be considered when choosing books for infants and toddlers. Once infants and toddlers begin making sounds or attempting to talk, they will soon join in with attempts at “reading” stories. Young children enjoy hearing stories read time and time again, and those repeated readings increase literacy and language development.

    Many more shared reading opportunities at home remain once children begin formal schooling. They often bring home books nightly to reread for practice and enjoyment. There is no better way for a child to enjoy reading a book than by doing shared reading with a parent. Parental involvement is crucial to a child’s reading and early literacy success. It is also directly connected to academic achievement and the number one predictor of early literacy success.

    How Parents Can Do Shared Reading at Home

    Shared reading is an interactive reading experience that allows parents to guide their child through a story by reading and asking questions to help develop literacy and language skills. Parental involvement in reading and early literacy has a direct correlation to academic achievement and is the number-one predictor of early literacy success. Reading to children begins at birth. Here are some suggestions for ways parents can do shared reading with their children:

    Shared Reading for Parents at Home for Younger Children

    • The parent reads to the child without interruption.
    • The parent reads a story and pauses for the child to supply a word or phrase.
    • The parent and the child take turns “reading” pages of the story.
      • “I’ll read the pages on this side and you read the pages on that side.”
      • Accept anything from the child as acceptable by saying, “That’s right!” and reread the child’s page correctly.
    • The child is allowed to take over the “reading” of the story at any time.
    • The child takes the lead in reading the story, and the parent provides support as needed by:
      • Providing wait time for the child to problem-solve a word independently.
      • Pointing to the picture to help with meaning.
      • Pointing to the first letter to help the child start the word.
      • Asking the child to “try that again” to see if rereading the sentence helps.
      • Asking what would “make sense” or “sound right”.

    Shared Reading for Parents at Home for Older Children

    • The parent reads the story, pausing to ask questions about the pictures on the page.
    • The parent reads the story, pausing to ask questions that begin with WH, such as:
      • Where do I start on this page to read?
      • Which page do I start on first (when there are two pages of text)?
      • What letter does this word start with?
      • Who do you see on this page?
      • What do you think is going to happen next?
    • The parent reads the story, pausing to ask questions about how the story relates to the child’s experiences, such as:
      • “Did you see any of these animals at the petting zoo?”
      • “What would you do if you found Goldilocks in your bed?”

    How to Choose Books for Shared Reading

    When choosing big books for shared reading lessons, there should be a balance between fiction and nonfiction books. Each has specific traits. Nonfiction and informational texts generally explain or provide information to the reader, while fiction and narrative texts tell a story.

    Children usually enter school with more experience with fiction and narrative texts. Fables, fairy tales, and realistic stories reflect most of the stories they encounter at home. For this reason, it is usually easier for children to activate their prior knowledge with these types of texts.

    Nonfiction and informational shared reading big books should reflect high-interest topics, especially those related to the group’s science and social studies curriculum. Choosing books that support a thematic unit can be very powerful. If students can link what they are reading within shared reading to something they are studying in a content area, they are more likely to increase their comprehension of the subject.

    Some things to consider when choosing big books for shared reading included:

    • A reading text level higher than where most students are able to read independently.
    • Interest:
      • Is the story worth reading and rereading?
      • Will the story and language engage the readers?
      • Is the content of high interest to the readers?
    • Teaching opportunities:
      • Does the text address the teacher’s teaching goals?
      • Does the text have sight words that are being learned?
      • Are there appropriate language skills that can be taught?
      • Will student vocabulary be enhanced by the text in the book?
    • Layout:
      • Is the print easy to track while reading?
      • Is the print simple with only one or two lines of print?
      • Is there adequate spacing between words?
      • Are the pictures supportive of the text?

    Types of Big Books for Shared Reading

    Big books are designed to target pre-kindergarten through first grade, with guided reading levels ranging from A through I. Their simple text with large print and pictures offers an engaging way to help students learn to read. Whether you are trying to decide between narrative big books or informational big books, each has a place in shared reading.

    Shared reading nonfiction and informational books look different from shared reading fiction and narrative books. Nonfiction books often contain text features that are helpful in conveying information. Through shared reading, teachers are able to explicitly teach the characteristics and purposes of these different types of texts.

    Hameray has an assortment of nonfiction and fiction big books for shared reading in their collection. The Joy Cowley Collection, Joy Cowley Early Birds, My World, Kaleidoscope Collection, Zoozoo Animal World and Fables & the Real World series all contain big books that can be used in shared reading.

    Fables & the Real World, specifically, pairs fiction books with nonfiction books. These paired sets of big books offer teachers a great way to teach the difference between fiction and nonfiction.

    Explore Big Books for Shared Reading

    Big books are highly appealing to readers of all ages, especially very young children who are just beginning to look at print. Shared reading with big books helps the teacher capture and hold the attention of his/her audience while reading a story or modeling the strategies of proficient readers.

    If you are looking for shared reading resources that include teacher big books for shared reading, Hameray Publishing Group has an extensive collection. There are currently 129 English big books and 45 Spanish big books available for classroom teaching.

    Guided reading levels for these shared reading books range from A to I. These narrative and informational big books are perfect resources for use during shared reading. Smaller leveled readers of each big book are also available, as well as teacher resource guides for each book.

    About the Author

    Paula Dugger is an educational consultant who has previously served as a Reading Recovery Teacher/Teacher Leader, first-grade teacher, Title I and high school reading teacher, and a Reading Coordinator. Paula has a B.S., M.Ed. and Reading Specialist Certification from The University of Texas at Austin and Reading Recovery training through Texas Woman's University.


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