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5 Steps to Use with Young Children During Shared Book Reading Time

Northwest | May 31, 2023

Literacy education begins long before kindergarten. Preparing young children to learn how to read and write is a regional and national priority, and parents and early childhood caregivers are in a unique position to help.

How Can What Works Clearinghouse Practice Guides Help Teachers?

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This helpful one-page infographic describes how What Works Clearinghouse practice guides provide research evidence, expert panel knowledge, and recommendations to address education challenges.

In 2022, the What Works Clearinghouse released the practice guide Preparing Young Children for School, which describes intentional instruction and ways to recognize and affirm student backgrounds and experiences. Three of the practice guide's seven recommendations focus on literacy, including using shared book reading time to increase learners' preparedness for school.

What are some best practices for reading to young children? The practice guide describes five shared book reading time recommendations for early educators, parents, and guardians:

  1. Select a variety of informational and narrative books that are appropriate for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds.
  2. Plan the purpose for reading the book and determine when to discuss certain topics with children.
  3. Prepare children to listen and discuss the content of the book before reading the book aloud.
  4. Engage in conversation with the children while reading the book.
  5. Align literacy activities with the focus of the shared book reading.

What does shared book reading time look like in practice? Let's examine a few of the steps from the practice guide.

First, choose age-appropriate books on relatable topics. When children see themselves, their families, and their experiences reflected in the texts they read, they are more motivated to seek out and take the time to understand additional books (pages 53-54).

Second, embrace rereading to reinforce learning. Using the same books during story time or before bed helps young learners build familiarity as they slowly learn how to read and understand books. Additionally, rereading books allows time to review previously discussed topics (pages 54-56).

Finally, engage in conversations about the texts. Literacy is not just the act of reading; it includes comprehension, synthesis, discussion, and engagement. Conversations help children prepare for increasingly complex discussions in school about the source material and enable them to analyze the text and communicate what they are – and are not – understanding (pages 56-57).

These shared book reading time strategies equip young learners with the skills to continue learning once they start school. The practice guide recommendation also includes advice from an expert panel on how to overcome specific obstacles educators, parents, and guardians might find when reading to young children (pages 59-60).

To date, REL Northwest has launched literacy partnerships and projects in three states.

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See below for additional resources from the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) and Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) on early and elementary literacy:


Edrick Willie Sabalburo

Edrick Willie Sabalburo

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