Essentially, shared reading is when you and a child (or group of children) read a book together. The book is read over and over again so that the child becomes so familiar with the how the story goes that she can chime in and "read" along with you. (So make sure to pick really fun books!) Usually we use short, predictable texts so that it's easy for the child to learn how the words go, making it fun and enjoyable to read along with you, matching her voice to each word you point to.
Little L. and I have been doing a lot of shared reading lately, using short, easy, beginner reading books--the kind that you would see in almost any pre-k, kindergarten, or first grade classroom.
We love the Brand New Readers Series. I use these little books often in my work as a literacy consultant, and it's exciting to see how much Little L. loves them!
There are tons of different characters to choose from in this series. Here are a few of our favorite characters from Brand New Readers. There are numerous titles for each character, so you and your child get to read about Monkey, or Mouse, or Worm in many stories, not just one :
Shared reading involves lots of rereading, which is great because it allows you to focus on something different each time you read the book. Usually the first time through, I read it just like I would read aloud any other book, only I do make sure to point to the words, and I use my voice to make the pattern stand out.
The second time through I continue to point to the words, and I also might let my voice trail off so that Little L. can fill in the missing words. She looks in the picture, and she knows how the pattern goes, so she's able to figure out the words I leave out. Substituting and filling in words that make sense is an important first phase in learning to read!
I've been keeping L.'s shared reading books in a special bag on her bookshelf next to her bed. We read 2-3 of these before her regular bedtime stories, which are usually longer storybooks or a few chapters from a chapter book. She loves that she gets to have a few extra books before bed, and they're so short that it only extends bedtime by a few minutes. As we reread our books, over time, Little L. chimes in more and more, and eventually she points to the words and "reads" the whole thing herself!
Some parents will ask me, "But aren't they just memorizing it? That's not really reading is it?" Well, yes and no. When your child knows exactly how the book goes, he or she is able to put together many reading skills at once: using the picture to figure out what's happening on that page, pointing to one word at a time, making sure to say words that match what's happening on the page, turning one page at a time, reading with expression… and much more. All of these skills can come together somewhat easily when your child knows the story, even when they might not be able to practice these skills at all on "cold read."
For more on shared reading with young kids, I recommend the book Read It Again!: Revisiting Shared Reading by Brenda Parkes.
And if you're more of a researcher type, you should check out Don Holdaway's work (he's known to many as the guru of shared reading). Here's a link to a lovely youtube video that nicely summarizes some of his work.
Happy Shared Reading!