Shared Reading of Predictable Books
Teachers of young children have always recognized the importance of reading a variety of books to children. There is one particular kind of book and one particular kind of reading, however, that have special benefits for building the reading and writing foundations—shared reading with predictable Big Books.
Shared reading is a term used to describe the process in which the teacher and the children read a book together. The book is read and reread many times. On the first several readings, the teacher usually does all of the reading. As the children become more familiar with the book, they join in and "share" the reading.
Predictable books are the best kind of books to use with shared reading. Predictable books are books in which repeated patterns, refrains, pictures, and rhyme allow children to "pretend-read" a book that has been read to them several times. Pretend reading is a stage most children go through with a favorite book that some patient adult has read and reread to them. Perhaps you remember pretend reading with such popular predictable books as Goodnight Moon, Are You My Mother?, or Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Shared reading of predictable books allows all children to experience this pretend reading. From this pretend reading, they learn what reading is, and they develop the confidence that they will be able to do it. They also develop print concepts and begin to understand how letters, sounds, and words work.
In choosing a book for shared reading, consider three criteria. First, the book must be very predictable. The most important goal for shared reading is that even children with little experience with books and stories will be able to pretend-read the book after several readings and develop the confidence that goes along with that accomplishment. Thus, you want a book without too much print and one in which the sentence patterns are very repetitive and the pictures support those sentence patterns.
Second, you want a book that will be very appealing to the children. Since the whole class of children will work with the same Big Book, and since the book will be read and reread, you should try to choose a book that many children will fall in love with.
Finally, the book should take you someplace conceptually. Many teachers choose Big Books to fit their units, build units around the books, or share Big Books by the same author or illustrator to study style.
Shared reading is called "shared" because we want children to join in the reading. There are many ways to encourage children to join in. Many teachers read the book to the children the first time and then just invite the children to join in when they can on subsequent reading. You might also want to "echo read" the book, with you reading each line and then the children being your echo and reading it again. Some teachers like to read the book with the children several times and then make a tape recording in which the teacher reads some parts and the whole class or groups of children read the other parts. Children delight in going to the listening center and listening to themselves reading the book!
In addition to books, many teachers write favorite poems, chants, songs, and finger plays on long sheets of paper and these become some of the first things children can actually read. Most teachers teach the poem, chant, song, or finger play to the children first. Once the children have learned to say, chant, or sing it, they then are shown what the words look like. The progression to reading is a natural one and children soon develop the critical "of course, I can read" self-confidence. Once children can read the piece, many teachers copy it and send it home for the child to read to parents and other family members.
After the book has been read, enjoyed, and reread in a variety of ways, most children will be able to read (or pretend-read) most of the book. This early "I can read" confidence is critical to emerging readers, and the shared book experience as described is a wonderful way to foster this. When engaging in shared reading with predictable Big Books, try to simulate what would happen in the home as a child delights in having a favorite book read again and again. First, you focus on the book itself, on enjoying it, rereading it, talking about it, and often acting it out. As you do this, you develop concepts and oral language. When most of the children can pretend-read the book, you focus their attention on the print. Provide writing activities related to the book and help children learn print conventions, jargon, and concrete words. When children know some concrete words, you use these words to begin to build phonemic awareness and letter–sound knowledge.
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