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What Is Shared Reading?

Literacy is a critical skill, one that all children need to master in order to advance in their education. So it is perhaps unsurprising that so much of the emphasis in primary education is on helping students acquire the tools they need in order to engage in life long literacy development.

One of the most common strategies for helping students successfully acquire reading and skills is the method known as “shared reading,” in which a teacher or tutor presents a text to students via a big book or a SMART Board and reads the text aloud while the students follow along. If you remember this method of instruction from your own primary school years, it is probably because this is one of the most tried and true ways for helping children build connections between spoken and written language.     

In this article, we will outline some of the reasons why shared reading is a useful method for teaching literacy, and also discuss particular strategies that can make shared reading even more effective.

Shared Reading Provides an Integrated Approach to Literacy

Learning to read is a unique challenge. For most children, connecting spoken language to written language is not an intuitive thing, and strategies for literacy education need to help students connect the language they speak with a system of signs and symbols that they can learn to use.

One of the reasons why shared reading is so effective is because it integrates direct instruction with practical application. As the teacher leads students through the text, they are able to use a number of different contextual markers (pictures, narrative, the formatting of the page itself) to make sense of how the story they are being told connects to the written language.  

Shared reading is also valuable as a way of introducing students to more complex material that is beyond their normal reading level. Students who struggle to read at all can, with the help of their teacher, work through storybooks and other age-appropriate texts that will push the boundaries of their understanding and help boost their confidence.

By using shared reading in a classroom setting, teachers can:

  • Help students gain an understanding of phonics and phonemic principles.
  • Introduce them to new words
  • Demonstrate strategies for comprehension and decoding, such as guessing meaning from context
  • Reinforce print concepts (like reading from left to right, and the continuity of text from page to page)
  • Help normalize reading activities, and foster an enjoyment and appreciation of written texts

Shared reading is an ideal classroom activity, because it provides teachers with the opportunity to engage the entire class in an exercise that has a clear entertainment component. But shared reading can also be a very helpful practice for a student to engage in on a one-on-one basis at home, either by yourself or with the help of a tutor.

In fact, shared reading is an excellent tutoring tool because it helps model skill acquisition in a safe and non-threatening way. In terms of our education philosophy, what makes us different is that we believe a tutor shouldn’t simply be a private teacher. We believe instead that a tutor should be like a very smart friend who comes alongside your child to help them feel their way through the material at their own pace.  

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Two Strategies that Can Make Shared Reading Even More Effective

While shared reading, as a practice, has been around for a long time, pedagogy experts have invested a lot of time researching ways to make this educational technique as effective as possible, and to integrate it with other strategies for literacy acquisition (you can click here to learn more about the latest literacy research).

They have found that shared reading can be made even more effective when the following strategies are applied:

Spend Time Introducing the Text

Shared reading is all about taking a text that is beyond a child’s reading level and making it approachable. For this reason, teachers generally see better results when they take the time to introduce the text properly and engage children’s curiosity before the reading begins. 

For example, before opening the book, ask students what they think the book will be about based on the cover, and ask them what they already know about the subject. This will prime students to engage intellectual with the content of the story, and helps make challenging new material more approachable. 

Engage Students in the Reading Itself

Once the reading has begun, don’t simply continue through to the end. Pause periodically to ask students about what is happening in the story, and encourage them to make predications about what is going to happen next. When you encounter words the child doesn’t know, ask them to guess what they mean, or to sound them out.

This gives children an opportunity to actively participate in the process, and to apply their own reading skills to deciphering the text (click here to read more about literacy development and other practical reading strategies). Reading is a skill we never really stop developing, so helping children engage their problem-solving faculties in the context of shared reading will provide them with a durable foundation for future learning.

Learning how to read is one of the biggest challenges your child will be faced with in their first years of schooling, and if you want to help them develop the habits of a life long learning, meeting this challenge using scientifically proven methods like shared reading is essential. 

If you want to know more about how you can use shared reading in the home to help your child acquire literacy skills, get in touch with Prep Academy Tutors today to find out how we can provide extra help today.