The Setting: You’re in a room with two or more children of roughly the same ages.
The Action: You take one child aside and begin to read a book to him or her.
The Result: All the children gravitate toward you as you read aloud almost as if you were a kid magnet.
The Analysis: This is a perfect example of shared reading!
What is Shared Reading?Shared reading is what you’d probably expect – reading aloud to a group of children. Formally established in 1979 by reading expert Don Holdaway (the technique is often referred to as “Holdaway’s Method”), shared reading has been a staple in homes, daycares, and schools for several generations.
Typically, shared reading involves a parent or educator reading from a large book with colourful illustrations and bold, easy-to-see typeface. The students gather around the adult (or child reader, when appropriate), listening to the story. However, to make the process effective as more than a simple way to pass the time, it’s crucial that the educator, mum, dad, guardian, babysitter, or grandparent turn the experience into something more involved.
The best way to achieve this goal when shared reading is to plan to re-read the same book on a number of different occasions with a variety of intentions each time the story is read. For instance, consider the following shared reading agenda with a fictitious book called “The Big Blue Bunny”:
Teacher shows children the book “The Big Blue Bunny”. Children discuss the cover picture and talk about what they think will happen inside the book based on the illustration and the title.
Teacher reads “The Big Blue Bunny”, pausing at each page so listeners have the opportunity to notice the pictures and text. Occasionally, questions might be asked of the students, such as, “Why did Blue Bunny run so fast?” or “Have you ever felt sad like Blue Bunny does?”
After reading “The Big Blue Bunny”, teacher asks a few contextual questions about the story, then puts the book in a place where the children can look through it on their own time (see the article on “Independent Reading”), if desired.
Teacher announces that he/she will be reading “The Big Blue Bunny” again. Then, teacher asks students what they remember about the story.
During the second reading of “The Big Blue Bunny”, teacher pays special attention to words and letters, asking children to identify them. If students know their sounds, they can even help determine some of the words on the pages.
After the story, teacher talks more in depth about “The Big Blue Bunny” and asks children what they liked or didn’t like about it and why.
Teacher reads “The Big Blue Bunny” to the class. By this point, listeners know what will happen. Many children may be “echoing” the instructor, repeating his/her words. They may also be finishing the sentences (especially those which rhyme or are predictable.) This should be encouraged to help them verbalise.
After reading “The Big Blue Bunny”, teacher tells students they each will write a new ending to the story. (Alternately, they can write a new book starring “The Big Blue Bunny” or another character from the tale.) Teacher and his/her assistant(s) help children write out one or two sentence “books” of their own, complete with illustrations.
Benefits of Shared ReadingAgendas such as the one above allow children who are Learning to Read to have a shared experience in a comfortable, non-judgmental setting. Their involvement in reading is on many levels and includes comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, language development, word identification, and pure literary enjoyment. Additionally, youngsters’ imaginations are developed using the shared reading technique.
Shared Reading has been used in libraries, schools, and homes for quite some time; so why not try it the next time you have two or more kids clamouring for a story? It’s a fun, exciting way to bring the written word to life for both you and your little learners.