Books for Shared Reading: Choosing Them, Changing Them

Sharing books with your child is one of the best activities you can choose for growing pre-literacy, speech, language, listening, and social skills.


By carefully choosing books, and changing them to fit your needs, you can enhance the language and listening opportunities and help have a more successful interaction with your child or student(s).


  • A good children’s librarian can be your greatest ally.  Do you know of a book that your child has enjoyed in the past?  Ask the librarian to help you find something similar, or another book by the same author.  Children’s librarians are also up on the latest releases and may have a great new book to recommend.


  • Choose books for shared reading that are one to two “steps” above your child’s current reading level or expressive/receptive language level.  When sharing books with an adult guide, children can access language higher than they could on their own, and it’s a great way to stretch their skills and introduce new vocabulary.


  • Choose books that are variations on a theme.  For example, there are many beautiful versions of the “Cinderella” story from cultures around the world.  Use a variety of these books to reinforce the basic plot of the story, while also exploring similarities and differences between the versions of the story.  Seeing multiple versions of a familiar story also helps with generalization — children don’t learn the word “bear” as tied only to one specific picture in one book of “The Three Bears,” but instead learn that the word “bear” can apply to many different pictures and actual animals in the real world.  When children have lots of different experiences to tie to a word, they avoid a rigid or narrow idea of what the word means.


Reading “Ellie’s Ears” to students from the Hearing School of the Southwest


  • Don’t be afraid to break the rules!  You don’t have to stick to the words printed on the page, start the book at the beginning, or finish the entire book if your child’s attention fades.  Is your child drawn to one particular illustration?  Stay there for as long as he wants to talk about it!  If the goal of books is to stimulate language, follow your child’s lead and spend more time on things that he wants to discuss.  (For more information on how become a master book-reader, I highly recommend The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.)


  • Add Post-It notes to cover key parts of each illustration, characters, vocabulary words, etc.  Ta-da!  You have an instant lift-the-flap book and a great way to stretch your child’s auditory skills.  Practice the technique of “tell before you show” to build your child’s ability to identify items by an auditory-only description before seeing the illustration.  Describe what’s behind the flap and have your child guess before you reveal the picture.


  • Add texture — this is especially good for children who are deaf-blind or have low vision, or children with sensory issues, but can be fun for all kids, too!  Use yarn glued around an illustration as an outline, or wikki-stix (more temporary).  Add cotton balls for clouds or sheep, or sandpaper for a beach, or feathers for a bird — the possibilities are endless!


  • Make color copies of pages of the book, then cut out pictures of key objects or characters.  Laminate, and add velcro to the back of the picture and the page of the book.  Then, you can play matching games with your child or use the cut-outs to pre-teach vocabulary.  This works best for board books with sturdy pages.


  • Put the child’s name in the story!  Re-name a character, and see if your child alerts to/recognizes his name.  It’s a great way to motivate children to listen carefully for details — you never know where your name might pop up!


  • Reading is participatory!  Let your child finish sentences or common refrains.  Talk to the characters on the page — tell a misbehaving one, “No, no!” or clap and cheer when the hero saves the day!

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