What many parents may not appreciate is that when they read a story to a child, they may actually be taking part in the shared reading model. It’s an interesting way to help a child to develop their understanding, and as this involves one reader reading to a group of children, those with more than one child may indeed be using the model created by Holdaway in 1979. If you don’t know the works of Don Holdaway who lived between 1930 and 2004, take a step into the world of reading and you may be surprised that you know more than you thought.
The system was developed when Don Holdaway worked on the problem of teaching Maori children within a classroom setting. None of these children had ever read and seemed to have difficulty when faced with learning to read and write. What he did glean was that the children already knew a lot of things that they had learned within their villages such as the way to say words or stories about their culture. In comparing the model of the village social setting and that of school, Holdaway developed things that school learning should include if it was to meet the needs of the children and the elements that he developed his model on were:
•That teachers should be able to demonstrate things as well as reading them. It helped the children to understand what was going on and to become more familiar with the language being used.
•The group setting worked well, because it encouraged participation from the children in a very positive environment that these children responded to.
•Achievement sharing and congratulations meant that the goals were easier for children to reach, since the positive interaction encouraged them.
The children enjoyed becoming part of the story, or guessing and participating in the reading process, and that by doing so were able to feel more familiar with the book being read and the language being used within that reading experience.
If you watch the video prepared for transmission on YouTube on guided reading and the system that Don Holdaway produced, you will see that parents participate in guided participation every day of the week. They may be within the home environment and a child who watches them may imitate the parent. In the video, the example given is that of a father blowing bubbles and the child looking on, anxious to do the same thing. The model that Holdaway used was based upon this want to do something, and so it was added to the shared reading model. Teachers talk through what they are reading, and even demonstrate what is happening within the book so that the child sees it as a very real thing and can imitate and join in, thus learning by the experience what the reading is all about.
The video also explains in detail how shared reading works, taking the example of a mother reading to a child in a place where the child feels at ease. Similarly, within the school setting, the children are grouped into small groups and relax while listening to the book being read. The model suits young minds because there is less distraction, and the small group are encouraged to listen without being sidetracked.
Usually the books used for shared reading are illustrated or have large letters and the child can participate perhaps by showing what noises animals make, or by interacting with the story. The reader must ensure that the child is encouraged to take part, rather than keeping their role as reader as a separate entity. Children should be encouraged to look through the book on their own as well because this also reinforces their familiarity with the word shapes or the pictures. It is that familiarity which helps the child to see the overall learning picture. The child can also be encouraged to read to teddy in the privacy of their own home, but with each reading the child will get nearer to the adult performance of reading.
The system is valuable at a young age because no matter what the ability level, the child is able to take in information which in turn helps them to develop independence and confidence in themselves and their abilities.
Within the classroom, the shared reading model used with young pupils helps to make the journey into the world of learning a much more natural progression, much like the world of the child would have been before any formal education was introduced. It’s a clever model, and if you look at children at preschool age, they will have already learned certain skills using the same model of watching, imitating and then role playing. An example of this may be a child playing with a doll or the child learning to be potty trained. Mom shows them what they are aiming at, the child participates and then reaps the reward of practicing and demonstrating their own ability.
For educators the work of Don Holdaway gives them valuable information on how to capture the heart of children and to encourage them to learn rather than placing the child in a classroom situation where too much is expected of them without that sharing activity. Children need the comfort, the familiarity and the enjoyment of participation and these are the facets which are introduced when a shared reading experience is used to educate.