Chapter seven was a reiteration of what I learned last year in my Teaching Reading course. This is not to say I was annoyed at the repetition. On the contrary, I find it enlightening that so many of the same concepts were mentioned in both textbooks, because this proves just how important and invaluable these techniques are in teaching children to read. What struck me while reading both chapters was the concept of shared reading, which I will discuss in the following paragraphs, taking information from my own fieldwork experiences and from the two texts that I have read. Hopefully, those who stumble upon my blog may find the information illuminating as they journey on their own quest to teach emergent readers.
According to Gunning, shared reading is a “technique in which the teacher reads aloud from a Big Book or other enlarged text and students follow along” (192). Through interactions like shared readings, students develop expectations of the kinds of language found in specific books, as well as developing understanding of print, letters of the alphabet, and letter-sound relationships. As children read, they can also become familiar with rhyming and high-frequency words.
Reading books aloud to children may be the most important tool in early literacy development. Good books have repetitive patterns, are language-rich, immerse the students in meaning, and present the power of language. At any given time children may be learning multiple literacy techniques through their reading. Shared reading can:
- Interest beginners or struggling readers in listening to, reading, and writing stories, with emphasis on predicting, sharing and extending personal meanings.
- Invite them to construct meaning through the use of picture cues and illustrations
- Help them gain familiarity with book language, and the meaning of terms that figure in literacy instruction
- Teach alphabetic principles of written language.
- Teach them to predict words that must come next in sequence.
Shared reading is also an effective and easy way to teach students Print Concepts. Before she begins reading, the teacher shows children the cover of the book and asks them what they think the story will be about. The children then use clues from the title and cover together with background knowledge to formulate predictions about the story.
The teacher then reads aloud the title, author, and illustrator and briefly explains what each term means. The students in turn note what the words on the book cover represent. The teacher then gives a lively reading, displaying interest and delight in the language. The students observe that the teacher can evoke meaningful language from print.
If the teacher tracks print with her hand, the students can follow the movement, which helps them make the connection between speech and print as well as left to right directionality. If the teacher focuses the children’s attention on distinctive features and patterns in the text and uses letter names and correct terminology to discuss these features, the students will learn these features and patterns and attempt to find others on their own. This develops understanding of the elements of decoding meaningful text.
Teachers can help develop all of these reading skills by selecting high-interest books with rich language, well-developed plots and characters, and multiple layers of meaning. Stories like that will engage readers. Educators should always preview the book before reading it aloud. This helps them to figure out what words or themes they want to focus on; plus it gives them a chance to practice their oral delivery. As teachers read the book to themselves, they should think about the story’s structure, characters, descriptions, illustrations, themes and author’s use of language. Educators should also not be afraid to select nonfiction books for extended vocabulary and high-quality realistic pictures. With these hints, teachers should be able to successfully immerse their struggling readers in literature.
Thomas G. Gunning, Assessing and Correcting: Reading and Writing Difficulties, rev. ed. (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010), 188-213.