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The Power of Shared Reading: Building Connections and Learning Together

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Updated on
Modified on April 5, 2024
Quick Takeaway

This article discusses how shared reading is a transformative approach to teaching literacy by emphasizing its role in fostering connections and enhancing comprehension skills among K–12 learners. From understanding the fundamentals of shared reading to practical strategies, shared reading is adaptable for different group settings, relevant to curriculum objectives, and easily integrated across subjects. With an emphasis on teacher modeling, leveraging background knowledge, and promoting interactive discussions, shared reading is considered an evidence-based instructional method that elevates reading levels, fluency, and overall literacy proficiency. Voyager Sopris Learning® provides valuable solutions to support the effective implementation of shared reading strategies in educational settings.

Shared reading is an integral way to teach literacy and enhance comprehension skills among K–12 learners. This approach is an active learning experience where students follow along in the reading of a text with guidance and support from their teacher. Shared reading is a practice designed to foster connections, build upon background knowledge, and refine reading skills. By using this Structured Literacy approach, teachers can ensure all learners feel supported and successful. 

Understanding Shared Reading

Shared reading is a collaborative reading experience during which a teacher and a group of learners read a text together. It is interactive and structured to be an enjoyable reading experience where students actively share in the reading of a text. During a shared reading session, the teacher demonstrates various reading strategies, while also providing frequent opportunities for students to engage thoroughly with the text by asking questions and facilitating discussions. This strategy ensures an opportunity to differentiate instruction so second language learners, students of varying reading skills, and younger children can engage with the text in ways they might not be able to do yet independently. 

  • Formats and Tools: Some various formats used in shared reading, such as big books or enlarged texts, are helpful in facilitating group participation and emphasizing print concepts. Using these tools allows all learners to engage with the text and illustrations during shared reading. 

  • Strategies for Different Group Settings: Shared reading can be adapted to suit different group sizes, from the whole class to small groups. During whole-group reading, the teacher facilitates a collaborative environment by asking questions, thinking aloud, and helping students make meaningful connections to the text. Shared reading can also be used in small groups to facilitate social-emotional learning. This smaller setting helps in the development of oral language and encourages students to actively participate in discussions. 

  • Integrating Shared Reading into Curriculum: Shared reading aligns with Structured Literacy programs and curriculum standards, supporting the development of various reading skills—fluency, phonics, print concepts, comprehension, and vocabulary. 

  • Building Comprehension and Retelling: Shared reading provides multiple opportunities for learners to engage with a single text, building comprehension through background knowledge, print concepts, and interacting with peers. When a shared reading has concluded, students should be able to retell the story in their own words. 

Shared Reading Strategies

The goal of shared reading is for students to interact with a text, usually above their reading level, with support from their teacher. To effectively reach this goal, there are reading strategies that integrate support and guidance, ensuring a challenging yet purposeful reading session. 

  • Guided Reading Techniques: A guided reading approach teaches learners how to comprehend a text. Students actively participate in guided reading with their eyes and ears. To support reading comprehension and maximize thinking, teachers should select texts that are appropriate for the learner’s reading level. 

  • First Reading Approach: The first reading of a text is meant to engage learners, eliciting their initial thoughts and predictions of the text. Teachers can pique interest by posing open-ended questions and making connections to the student’s prior knowledge. 

  • Close Reading Practices: The purpose of a close reading is for students to carefully read and reread the text more deeply. Close reading allows students to focus on specific elements, what the words mean, and what the structure of the text is saying. This approach ensures students are truly comprehending what they’ve read. Close reading techniques involve a group read-aloud where students circle unfamiliar words or phrases. It can also look like small groups answering text-dependent questions. 

  • Interactive Read-Aloud Methods: For a read-aloud to be interactive and engaging, there are strategies that can be used to encourage active participation and comprehension. Before a teacher reads a text aloud, they should strategically plan how they will prompt deep thinking. To stimulate critical thinking, teachers may periodically ask students to turn and talk to a partner, stop and write down a few words or sentences, or even role play what a character may be feeling. 

  • Focusing on Decoding and Print Concepts: Within the context of shared reading, the ability to understand phonics, sight word recognition, and print conventions are foundational. When reading, teachers can point to the words to help students connect spoken words with printed text. They can also practice identifying common sight words to enhance overall reading fluency. Additionally, teachers can highlight print conventions such as punctuation, capitalization, and sentence structure. 

  • Engaging Learners in Discussion: Invite students to share their thinking when discussing a text. It is important for teachers to ask open-ended questions that encourage critical thinking and participation, creating an environment where all learners feel they have an opportunity to share their interpretations of the text. 

Shared Reading in Practice

Whether facilitating whole-group instruction or small-group lessons, there are practical strategies for practicing shared reading in the classroom. These strategies include:

  • The Text Selection Process: It is critical to select appropriate texts that align with curriculum objectives, promoting engagement and adaptability across proficiency levels.  

  • Relevance to Curriculum Objectives: When the content of shared reading texts connects with the curriculum, teachers can reinforce reading skills and concepts that align with the learning objectives. This ensures the shared reading is purposeful and relevant, while also allowing teachers to assess their students' mastery of an objective. 

  • Adaptability for Diverse Proficiency Levels: To cater to all reading levels effectively, it is essential to select texts that can be tailored to challenge advanced readers while still supporting those who may struggle. This allows every student to progress at their own pace. Differentiated instruction may include providing additional resources or guiding discussion questions based on individual needs. 

  • Engaging Older Learners: By choosing texts that resonate with the age group and interests, teachers can help encourage critical thinking and discussions, while still supporting literacy development. To enhance the shared reading experience, integrate technology or creative projects. 

  • Maintaining Educational and Engaging Balance: To ensure shared reading sessions remain purposeful and enjoyable, educators should remember to save time for engagement. Shared reading is meant to be interactive, giving students the confidence to participate in whole-class or small-group discussions. Teachers should remember to stop frequently, ask questions, and include follow-up activities for a comprehension check.

  • Integration Across Subjects: Shared reading is not only applicable within language arts but can transcend across various subjects. Integrating shared reading into subjects like science and math can reinforce the relevance of reading skills in different contexts.  

Implementing Shared Reading in Instruction

Shared reading is an evidence-based approach in literacy instruction that helps increase reading levels, build comprehension, and give students exposure to challenging texts. Ways to implement shared reading during instruction include: 

  • Teacher Modeling and Guidance: The teacher plays a pivotal role during shared reading sessions, focusing on providing guidance to enhance comprehension and reading strategies. They may use big books or enlarged text to model reading behaviors or facilitate interactive discussions. 

  • Leveraging Background Knowledge: A student’s background knowledge shows up in their vocabulary, their academics, and their life experience. Teachers can connect the text to learner’s experiences by leveraging upon their existing knowledge to make meaning and build on what they currently know. 

  • Building Reading Fluency: A shared reading text is often one of a higher reading level. Through repeated readings, echo reading, or choral reading of the same text, these sessions contribute to increased fluency and comprehension development. 

  • Supporting Different Reading Levels: To ensure all learners can actively engage and comprehend the material, teachers should differentiate their instruction. This can involve a flexible approach to grouping, providing additional support through guidance, encouraging interaction, and supporting communication. 

  • Integration of Oral Language Development: Shared reading sessions are designed to be interactive, promoting discussions on open-ended questions and group interactions, contributing to improving oral language skills among learners. 


Shared reading is a method for teaching literacy that focuses on the interaction of the text that is being read. This evidence-based instruction is beneficial throughout K–12 settings and helps support learners in developing strong reading skills, comprehension, language proficiency, and overall literacy. Voyager Sopris Learning values the practice of shared reading and offers solutions for schools and districts to implement these strategies effectively. 


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