Friday, April 13, 2012

Shared Book Reading

Heather Gillum, PhD, CCC-SLP
When I imagine a kindergarten classroom and a teacher at her best, I think about shared book reading.  An extension of circle time, this is when big book versions of children's favorite stories are shared with the class as a group.  In my opinion this is the most academically relevant part of the kindergarten day as reading is modeled, explained, and practiced as a group.  Hearing a group of little children sound out words together while they follow the teacher's pointer with their eyes is a magical thing.

The best way to prepare a child for participation in shared book reading is to read to them, of course.  Children who have familiarity with stories are more prone to pay attention during this kind of activity.  Teachers are good at stopping along the way to discuss words that may be unfamiliar, to make predictions about what might happen next in the story, and to ask questions to see if everyone is listening, and doing this at home can help a child shift gears between reading the book and talking about the book.  Children who have the following 6 prerequisite skills and knowledge get the most out of shared book reading:

1.  Ability to pay attention to the story, remembering details so they can be discussed.
2.  Visual tracking skills, following the teacher's pointer as she sounds out the words, laying the foundation for sound-symbol relationships.

3.  Preliminary alphabet knowledge, so that they can chime in when the teacher points out a letter and asks for its name or sound.
4.  Literate vocabulary--these are phrases that are common in books but not in conversation, such as "once upon a time," "even though," "all along," and the passive tense.
5.  Rhyming skills. As a component of phonological awareness, good teachers work in rhyming practice during book reading.
6.  The ability to make connections between text and real life.   

What can you do to promote development of these skills?  Here are 6 tips.

1. Reading, of course.  My favorite resource for book lists for young children is from the Nashville Public Library.
2.  When you read, run your finger under the words to teach tracking skills.
3.  Work on the alphabet--there are many "alphabet books" with all kinds of themes and great illustrations.  Set a goal of identification of all uppercase letters before the first day of school.  If you are feeling ambitious, work on the lowercase letters as well.
4.  In addition to reading stories, make up stories using literate language.  This will reinforce comprehension of these less familiar phrases and sentence structures.  This was a favorite bedtime activity for my daughter, who used it as a charming way to stall when it was time for lights out.  It always started with "Once upon time there was a little girl named Natalie Grace, and she lived in a big house with three dogs..." and went from there.
5.  Play rhyming games.  One old favorite is the Name Game song.
6.  Practice making connections between things you read with your child and your child's life.  As you are reading, point out people, places, things, and situations that parallel your child's environment and experiences.  It's also fun to read a nonfiction book alongside a fiction book, such as a book about caterpillars paired with The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. 

We've covered quite a bit of ground in the academic language of the kindergarten classroom. Next week we'll shift to social language and classroom routines.

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