Shared Reading

What is shared reading?

Shared reading provides an opportunity for learners to apply decoding skills during actual book reading activities.

The instructor and the learner share the responsibility for reading the book.

The instructor

  • reads each sentence and pauses at simple regular words for the learner to decode

The learner

  • decodes the word and then says it, signs it, or selects the picture or symbol from a communication board or speech generating device (computer)


Why is shared reading important?

The ultimate goal is for learners to acquire the skills to read a wide range of books.

Shared reading activities allow learners to apply their decoding skills to book reading early on in the instructional process, before they are able to read books independently.

Shared reading serves three purposes:

  • It increases motivation to learn to read.
  • It provides additional practice in decoding to build fluency.
  • It enhances generalization of decoding skills.


Sample goal for decoding during shared reading

When the instructor reads a sentence in a book out loud, pauses, and points to a regular 3-letter word in print, the learner will

  • decode the word
  • indicate the word by saying it out loud, signing it, or selecting the appropriate picture or AAC symbol with at least 80% accuracy.


Instructional Task

In shared reading, the instructor

  • reads each sentence in the book, and
  • pauses at simple regular words that the learner should be able to decode.

The learner

  • decodes the target word in the sentence, and
  • says the word, signs it, or selects the picture or symbol from a communication board or speech generating device (computer).


Instructional Materials

Shared reading can use many different kinds of books.  Highlight the words for the learner to read in yellow.

Shared reading can use books from different genres:

When the learner decodes the word, he or she can:

  • Say the word out loud
  • Sign it
  • Select the picture or symbol for the word from a communication board
  • Click to see a communication board made to go with the book, The Magic Hat.
  • Select the picture or symbol for the word from a speech generating device (computer)


Instructional Procedure

The instructor teaches decoding skills during shared reading using the same procedures as single word decoding.

  • Model
    • The instructor demonstrates decoding the target word in the sentence for the learner.
  • Guided practice
    • The instructor provides scaffolding support or prompting to help the learner decode the target word successfully.
    • Points to the letters in sequence
    • Says each letter sound in sequence elongating the sound and blending it with the next sound
    • Then points to the letters and says the sounds a bit faster
    • The instructor gradually fades this support as the learner develops competence
  • Independent practice
    • The learner looks at the letters in the word, says the sounds in his /her head, blends them, and determines the word independently
    • The instructor monitors the learner’s responses and provides appropriate feedback


Student Example

Ellie is 7 years old in this video.

  • Ellie has cerebral palsy. She is in grade 1.
  • We started to work with Ellie when she was 6 years old, the summer before she started grade 1. At that time, she knew some of her letters and sounds but she was not yet reading words.
  • Ellie uses speech and a computer with speech output to communicate (an MT4 from DynaVox).
  • This video was taken after approximately 15 hours of instruction.
  • Ellie is learning to apply decoding skills in the context of a shared book reading activity. In this example, Ellie is reading a personalized book about Halloween.
    • Janice
      • introduces the topic of the book (Halloween)
      • reads each sentence in the book
      • pauses when she gets to a regular 3-letter word
      • “Leah is a ______”
    • Ellie
      • looks at the written word - cat
      • thinks of the sounds for each of the letters
      • blends the sounds together in her head
      • points to the PCS for the target word, cat, on the communication board
  • After approximately 15 hours of instruction, Ellie is able to decode regular 3-letter words. She successfully applies her decoding skills to read words during shared book reading with lots of different books
  • Ellie is well on the way to becoming a successful reader. Click to learn more about Ellie’s success learning literacy skills.



Learners can start shared reading activities as soon as they start instruction in decoding.

Start with simple shared reading activities:

  • Target only one word per sentence for the learner to read.
  • Ideally place this word near the end of the sentence.

The words for the learner to decode are highlighted in yellow. As learners develop competence, increase the number of words targeted.

  • Target 2-3 words per sentence for the learner
  • Target regular words for decoding
  • As the learner acquires sight words, target these as well.


Last Updated: February 16, 2019