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Literacy Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Shared reading and the Ready to Read series

Fostering a community of readers

Shared reading is one of two complementary instructional approaches that lead to independence in reading.  It can involve a specific group or the whole class, depending on students’ learning needs. 

In this approach, the teacher leads the reading of an enlarged text that would otherwise be too difficult for students to read by themselves. The students follow the text with their eyes and are encouraged to join in as they feel confident. They are able to participate in the construction of meaning as a listener and a reader.

Shared reading involves multiple readings of a text. The first reading is about enjoyment, responding to the storyline, and thinking about the theme. When the first reading of a text has been with the whole class, subsequent readings may be with groups of students who have similar learning needs. Shared reading is a particularly valuable small-group approach for beginning readers and English language learners.

In subsequent readings, students will be able to read with increasing fluency and expression. They can focus on specific aspects of the text such as:

  • exploring new vocabulary
  • exploring some ways the writer has used language
  • discussing the structure of the story
  • discussing links to other texts
  • discussing the characters, plot, or settings
  • focusing on the conventions of print and punctuation.

For beginning readers, shared reading helps develop some confidence with books, begins to build a sense of story, and to attend to print by introducing or reinforcing concepts; including reading from left to right, return sweep, and one-to-one word matching.

When students are familiar with the big books, they can read the small book versions independently.



I find the Ready to Read poem card Sleep, both through its language and the way it’s illustrated, really engages students and gets them thinking deeply. It’s a topic that everyone can connect with. Although the poem cards are great fun to read with the whole class, I also like to use them with a smaller group to focus on particular aspects, and also allow for close viewing of the illustrations. Recently, I introduced this poem card to a group of my Year 2 students. I began the shared reading session by telling them that the author is sharing an idea about sleep and asking them to think about the author's idea as I read the poem. I made sure I read smoothly and slowly to create the feeling of sleep creeping up. I could see the students catching on to the “wave” metaphor. We briefly discussed this before rereading each verse and discussing it in more detail. I asked them to use their hands to show how waves creep up onto the shore and swish back again and to decide whether that’s what falling asleep feels like for them. One or two students commented on the “wave-like” layout of the text.

We looked closely at the illustrations. There was quite a debate about the thought bubbles. The students were divided over whether they show what the cat and the boy are thinking about before they go to sleep or whether they show what they’re dreaming about. Both ideas make sense. We talked about the need for sleep as a rest from thinking.

I posed a challenging question – "How does the author feel about sleep? How can you tell?" and asked the students to think, pair, and share. It was a very lively discussion. Painting or drawing their own ideas about sleep is always a rewarding activity after reading this poem.

I find another good follow up activity with some groups is to explore the use of metaphor in other poems. Some favourites are the metaphor of dandelions as “golden stars” or “soft white moons” in “Dandelions” in Junior Journal 27, the rain as “silver balls” in “Rain Game” in Junior Journal 38, and the image of the moon as a chin in “The Moon” in Night is a Blanket.

Teacher, year 2 class

Background information

  • For more information about shared reading, see pages 93–96 of Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4.

Updated on: 20 Nov 2014