The Power of Shared Reading for English Language Learners

I have recently had the pleasure of working with a beautiful little girl who moved from Puerto Rico to the United States almost 3 months ago.  She is able to read and write on-grade level in her native language and appears eager to read.  When I see her with her classmates she is not interacting with them yet and appears to be shy and self-conscious. She is in the preproduction stage of second language acquisition.  She answers questions by nodding “yes” or “no” and is mostly silent.


I see this student for literacy intervention in a small group of two.  I have been using Fountas and Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI).  We are currently working with the Green LLI kit’s getting started lessons.   Shared reading is a component of the getting started lessons.  After just one week of shared reading, I saw changes in my student’s confidence and engagement.  Shared reading allowed my student to hear a repeated language structure which in turn gave her the courage to make an attempt herself.  On the third day of working together, I was able to hear my student fully participating in the shared reading of poems and big books that we had read for three consecutive days.

When writing about the shared text she was able to point to a picture in the book that she wanted to write about and verbally label it.  I modeled the sentence that mimicked the language structure in the book and she was able to repeat it and write it in her writing book and independently generate two more sentences that followed the same language structure.

I could tell from my student’s participation and body language that the big books we were reading were making sense to her and she was excited about them.  One of my favorite moments was when she suddenly realized that Meli, a puppy from one of our recent shared reading books, was on the alphabet linking poster.  My shy quiet little girl was suddenly pointing and saying quite loudly “Puppy!  Puppy!  Meli!”.  She then took the small version of the big book out of our book basket to show the other student.  She was immediately rewarded by the excited response of the other student.  I wondered if that was the first time she had been understood by her English speaking peers.  I also wondered about the impact this positive interaction would have on her future willingness to take risks with speaking English.

This wonderful interaction with her peer was made possible through the shared reading experience.  Seeing the growth in my students’ risk-taking, vocabulary, and means of communicating reminded me of the power of using shared reading in the classroom.  I think sometimes there is a notion that shared reading is only for our younger k/1 students which is simply not the case.

I highly encourage you to include shared reading as a part of your daily routine.  Shared reading is appropriate and beneficial for all ages and is especially powerful for English language learners.  Shared Reading requires a text that is enlarged for all students to see.  Teachers might use a big book, a poem written on chart paper, or a book, poem, or reader’s theater script displayed on a Smart Board.  The teacher reads the text with the students several times throughout the week.

On the first day, the teacher reads the text to the students, the students and the teacher discuss the meaning of the text and then the read the text with the teacher.  The teacher chooses different teaching focuses for each repeated reading.   It is important not to stop too often during the reading of the text as it interrupts the meaning and flow of the text.  The Literacy Continuum written by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell is a great resource to use when thinking about teaching points.  You can simply turn to the shared reading section, then the grade level you teach and you will see a  plethora of teaching points that are appropriate for your students.


Give shared reading a try and I guarantee that you will notice the benefits first-hand in a short period of time.


2 thoughts on “The Power of Shared Reading for English Language Learners

  1. Pingback: Decrease the Need for Intervention: Strengthen Classroom Instruction – Literacy Pages

  2. Pingback: Kindergarten Letter Knowledge: Predictor of Future At-Risk Readers – Literacy Pages

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