Shared Reading: A Powerful Practice to Support Literacy

We know the importance of providing our students with a strong diet of literacy fundamentals: phonological awareness, alphabet/sound knowledge, concepts about print, and concept of word in text. A challenge we sometimes face, however, is that students show skills in these areas during isolated activities, but we don’t see them making the leap to using those skills in the context of more naturalistic reading situations. In fact, many of our students need intentional and explicit support in taking what they know and applying it in the context of reading. One technique to foster connections is Shared Reading.

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What is Shared Reading?

Shared reading is a process of actively involving students in naturalistic reading opportunities such as storybooks, charts, big books, diagrams, morning message, etc. We are going to focus on a particular approach in which you:

  • Read and reread an enlarged text, such as a big book or chart.
  • Focus on particular skills within an overall text.

Why should I do Shared Reading?

To offer students explicit support in building a bridge between what they know and how to use what they know. 

How do I do Shared Reading?

  • Day 1: Introduce and read the text, pointing to the words. Engage students with the book’s story and content.
  • Days 2 and 3: Reread the text together and use it to focus on particular skills.
  • To see an example of a teacher implementing Shared Reading, click here.

What kind of text should I use for Shared Reading?

  • Books with interesting, enlarged print, such as print in various sizes and colors, or print within pictures
  • Patterned, predictable, or otherwise easily memorized text
  • Big books, charts, sentence strips on a pocket chart, or a refrain from read aloud or a song 

How do I choose a particular text for Shared Reading?

  • Different texts lend themselves to different goals, so first, consider your instructional goals (e.g., if students need practice applying knowledge of particular letters/sounds, choose a text that contains those letters as beginning sounds).

What are the best instructional goals to have during the Shared Reading?

  • It depends on what your students need! Shared reading is best done as a supplement to a systematic literacy curriculum because you know what you have already taught. This knowledge allows you to observe areas in which students are not yet consistently using what you have taught them, so you can tailor the shared reading experience to their learning needs.
  • Click here for some examples of what you might observe and how you might enact instruction.

What else should I think about for Shared Reading?

Planning and Organization:

  • Use the same text with the whole class, then the following week, use it with small groups.

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  • Use personal readers (individual notebooks) for text-only copies.
  • Use the same materials in workstations/centers after using them in shared reading.
  • Connect what students already know to what they need to learn.
  • With your teammates, create a list of available texts and a chart with text features (e.g., particular beginning consonants, multi-syllabic words, rhyming words) to use in planning future shared reading lessons.

During Instruction:

  • Model your thinking with explicit language. For example, for the word “fast,” you might say, “I see an F at the beginning of that word. F says /fff/. Oh, I know, that word is ‘fast.’ Let me read up to it to double-check.” Then reread the text as you point to the words until you get to the word “fast.” Then you might say, “Yes, that is ‘fast.’ Fast starts with /fff/. I see F at the beginning, and I said that word when I pointed to it.”
  • Repeat your focus on a specific skill 3-5 times during reading.
  • Allow students to speak up. Let students point to the text while you comment. Or, ask students questions. A balance of literal questions (e.g., “What does this word start with?”) and higher-level questions (e.g., “How did you know that word was ‘lion?’”) is important.
  • Give students specific praise. Saying something like, “Yes, you knew that L says /l/ and lion starts with /l/ and that’s how you knew the word was lion.” Have students check that they are correct by reciting the text while pointing to the word in question.

Shared Reading is one way to share books with students across the kindergarten day as you focus on the identified needs of your students.

For further information:

To read more about Shared Reading, click here.

To watch a webinar, Integrating Emergent Literacy Instruction Using Shared Reading, login to your PALS Account (Resources tab, Webinar page, Recorded Webinars section).

Research Articles:

Button, K., & Johnson, M. (1997). The role of shared reading in developing effective early reading strategies. Reading Horizons, 37(4), 261-273.

Piasta, S.B., Justice, L.M., McGinty, A.S., & Kaderavek, J. (2012). Increasing young children’s contact with print during shared reading: Longitudinal effects on literacy achievement. Child Development, 83, 810–820. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01754.x

Zucker, T.A., Ward, A.E., & Justice, L.M. (2009). Print referencing during read-alouds: A technique for increasing emergent readers’ print knowledge. The Reading Teacher, 63(1), 62-72. https://doi.org/10.1598/RT.63.1.6


More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email vkrp@virginia.edu, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1