Shared Reading is a simple and effective way to improve language and literacy skills in our students.  Researchers report that students learn almost half of the words they are exposed to during shared reading! Flack, Field & Horst, 2017.  So exactly what is Shared Reading?  Shared book reading involves a child participating in book reading with an adult who is reading and modeling fluent reading strategies.  The key to successful learning during Shared Reading is the adult facilitating the engagement of the student. To put it simply, the more interested and actively engaged the student becomes, the more they learn about literacy and language! So pick up a book and let's go!  There are some strategies we know are successful, so let's take a look at those.

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  • Repeated Exposure to Target Words: If you really want the most "bang for your buck" in terms of vocabulary learning, pick out the words you are going to highlight.  This is an excellent time to target those power "core" words we are always talking about.  The good news about these "core" words is that they are the same "sight" words we target.  Speaking and reading go hand in hand!  You're going to want to emphasize these words in writing and revisit them in different ways during later activities.
  • Ensuring Visual Attention to the book: How do we make students look?  To ensure students are looking, point out pictures and words, talk about what you see! You can talk about what it reminds you of, what you know about the word. Don't worry about the child shifting attention between you and the book! For the purpose of learning reading and vocabulary, attention to the book, words and pictures may be more important than engaging visually with the partner, in particular for students with Autism. Wicks & Westerveld, 2020
  • Verbal Engagement: Be sure that you are describing, labeling and "thinking out loud" when you are reading with your student.  Try to avoid simply asking questions that can be answered with a simple "yes/no" or a label.  Think about using open ended questions and prompts such as "I wonder," "I think" and "What do you think?" Nelson, Stoddard and Munoz, 2019
  • Partner Strategies for Encouraging Communication: Of course we want to remember good communication partner strategies. The point of your interaction is to find out what the student is thinking, not to simply tell them what to think! You will want to give them enough time to consider what they might want to say (expectant pause!).  Make a comment, ask an open ended question and WAIT! You can count to 10 in your head so you don't jump in too quickly.

Follow the CAR!

This is an excellent strategy to get you started using Shared Reading with your students! CAR is an acronym meaning:

C: Comment
A: Ask
for Participation
R: Respond
by adding a little more

(Notari-Syverson, Maddox, and Cole, 1999)

The CAR strategy can  be adapted for emergent readers and AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) users. For emergent readers, adults can provide comments and ask questions about the pictures in the book, as well as the text. This can help children make connections between the words and the images, develop their comprehension skills, and learn how to express these ideas. For example, adults might say "Look at the picture! What do you think is happening?" or "I see the cat! What do you see?"

For AAC users, parents can use their child's communication device or system to ask questions and provide comments. This might involve using visual supports, such as pictures or symbols, to help children understand the questions and respond. For example, parents might use a symbol for "like" or "don't like" to ask their child about their opinion of the story. They can then wait for their child to respond using their AAC system and provide feedback and support as needed.

Regardless of their reading level or communication abilities, the CAR strategy can be adapted to meet the needs of all children. By using comments, questions, and responses to engage with the text and promote comprehension, parents can help their children develop important literacy and communication skills. Students who are newly learning their AAC system are able to watch you use their system, have an opportunity to imitate or comment based on your models, and see you use their system too!


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