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The Purpose of Shared Reading & The Power of Re-reading with Boardmaker Activities-to-Go!

by Maureen Donnelly M.Ed December 12, 2018

The Purpose of Shared Reading & The Power of Re-reading with Boardmaker Activities-to-Go!

We hear about the benefits of two practices in special education: shared reading and re-reading. They are fun, easy to do, and can help you flesh out Boardmaker Activities-to-Go into more than a week’s worth of content. Each new unit, downloadable here and here comes with three engaging, thematic, and printable books. Every time you read and then re-read these books, you are providing foundational experiences for your students. Is your next question, why? Why does shared reading and re-reading provide such a literacy bang for your buck? Read on to learn more.

The Purpose of Shared Reading

Shared reading is an interactive read-aloud experience where an adult supports students in participating in reading the book and conversing about it. Throughout, the adult explicitly models the skills of proficient readers, like reading with fluency and expression and using contextual cues like photos or illustrations to help make meaning from a text. Here’s the catch:

Since the purpose of shared reading is to engage students, our questions and conversation should focus on how students think rather than what they know.

Does this make sense? So, for example, during the shared reading of a book about butterflies, we ask questions or make comments on every page. We say things like, “We saw butterflies on our last field trip.” And, “Which butterfly is your favorite?” Both of these set the stage for no-fail participation because they simply ask students to make a connection to their experience and share a preference. The good news is that this shift away from right/wrong questions will help your students make a stronger connection to the real purpose of reading, which is to discover! Shared reading is something that ALL children, at any beginning stage of literacy development will benefit from because it helps them to:

  • construct coherent thought processes, like remembering, problem-solving, and decision-making
  • activate and develop background knowledge
  • grow their vocabulary
  • become more fluent in the forms and functions of written language
  • enhance social skills by sharing, responding, reciprocating
  • orient towards the role and function of print.

So that’s a beginning list of the value of shared reading. But what about rereading?

The Power of Re-reading

At first, rereading the same books sounds boring. And isn’t a big part of our job to engage students?  I know that as a teacher myself, I failed to grasp the power of rereading specifically, and repetition, in general. I thought my job was to provide novelty of some kind, every day. On the surface, it makes a kind of sense. Novelty is an easy way to engage students. But here’s the thing that we grown-ups forget: repetitive experiences (a.k.a. practice) are soothing and reinforcing to students who happen to face daily learning challenges. Have you ever, for example, watched a TV show and then re-watched it? Did you notice that during the second watching, you learned new details or perhaps even understood the plot differently? It is because re-watching is a somewhat different experience than the original watching. The same is true for reading. During a re-reading experience, emergent readers read more deeply and search for meaning or nuances they missed in the first reading. Noticing doesn’t taper off after one or two reads, either. They learn about things like plots and story grammar. They develop a deeper understanding of writing and about how authors develop characters. They integrate new vocabulary with support from pictures and illustrations. The power of re-reading and the learning potential inherent in it cannot be understated. But remember the caveat from the previous paragraph? Here is one for rereading:

Set a new purpose each time you read. It provides repetition with variety, which helps students comprehension strategies that go far beyond the experience of this book.

Below find five examples of new purposes that might add some additional interest and value each time you reread a book:

  1. Let’s read to think of another title of this book.
  2. Let’s read to decide what the main idea is.
  3. Let’s read to make a connection between this book and another book we’ve read.
  4. Let’s read to identify 1-3 details that support the main idea.
  5. Let’s read to decide what else you want to learn about this topic.

Are you now feeling as ready as I am to grab a kid, a book, and read aloud? Don’t let me stop you. And each time you re-read, add one of the purposes mentioned here or, one of your own! I promise you’ll have fun and you’ll be providing a critically important literacy learning experience to your emergent readers. Look for next month’s Boardmaker Activities-to-Go topic and start reading and rereading today!

Maureen Donnelly M.Ed
Maureen Donnelly M.Ed

Maureen Donnelly, M.Ed, is an early childhood educator who currently holds the position of Curriculum Manager at Tobii Dynavox. Before this, Maureen contributed to the creation of numerous products that support emergent readers of diverse abilities and ages. Maureen lives and works in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in an office stuffed with children’s books.



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