Shared Story Book Reading: Resources and Evidence

Shared storybook reading is the term used to describe the interactions between an adult and child while reading a storybook together. Whether occurring at home or in classrooms, libraries, or other settings, caregiver-child shared reading is a strategy for developing early literacy skills in young children, and is at the core of book distribution programs like the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library program. Numerous studies conducted over the last two decades have substantiated the evidence for shared reading as an approach to facilitate literacy skills. 

The evidence behind book distribution programs

Book distribution programs attempt to address disparities in access to children’s storybooks by getting books into the hands of families and children. The theory of change behind book distribution programs is simple: Providing storybooks to help build a home library can foster young children’s interest in books and reading, increase the frequency of caregiver-child reading in the home, and expand literacy resources available in the home. In combination, these phenomena can enhance children’s progress towards key developmental milestones and school readiness at age five.   

To learn more about how book distribution programs can enhance early literacy skills, download our research brief, Caregiver-Child Shared Reading as a Strategy for Early Literacy Development. 

The evidence behind shared reading

Birth to age five is a critical window of time for young children to develop foundation skills that will help their transition into formal schooling at kindergarten. For most children, the kindergarten transition brings with it the child’s first introduction to formal reading instruction, that is, the explicit teaching of sound-symbol correspondence and reading comprehension. Activities occurring within the home during this birth-to-five period are instrumental for enhancing children’s foundational reading skills.  

Numerous studies conducted by Crane Center investigators show that caregiver-child shared reading in which the caregivers talk about print in the book significantly increases young children’s alphabet knowledge and print awareness (e.g., Justice & Ezell, 2000; Justice, Skibbe, McGinty, Piasta, & Petrill, 2011) and lead to long-term advantages in reading achievement (Piasta et al., 2012). More generally, studies show that a heightened volume of caregiver-child shared-reading is associated with enhanced kindergarten readiness and foundational reading skills (Justice, Logan, Işıtan, & Saçkes, 2016; Sawyer et al., 2014), and helps to minimize screen time in the home (Khan et al., 2017). Consequently, numerous efforts are underway to promote caregiver-child shared-reading within the home during the birth-to-five period.  

Crane Center programs related to shared storybook reading

Several programs have been developed, evaluated and tested, and scaled so as to reach more young readers.  

Read It Again!

Read It Again! (RIA) is a practitioner-friendly, scientifically based curricular supplement designed to develop and strengthen young children’s early foundations in language and literacy. Lessons are organized around adult-child readings of high-quality storybooks meant to supplement – not replace – an educator’s instruction.  

The curriculum was developed through a two-year collaborative effort in which Crane Center researchers worked closely with early childhood educators, state-level policymakers, and speech-language pathologists. It is widely used in early childhood programs in the United States and internationally.  

To learn more and to download curricular materials and supports, visit the RIA website. 

STAR: Sit Together and Read

STAR is a set of interactive and innovative read-aloud practices designed for educators and caregivers. STAR utilizes intentional read-aloud practices and mindful scaffolding strategies to encourage and strengthen young children’s knowledge and awareness of print. The STAR programs have adopted the name STAR Read-Aloud Practices following years of research that have demonstrated shared book reading as an effective means for advancing emergent-literacy skills.  

You can download STAR materials or learn more about the research supporting the program. 

SOLYUNA Book Reading Club

Funded by the Kellogg Foundation, the SOLYLUNA Book Reading Club promotes families’ access to books for young children, in an area of high illiteracy in Mexico. Workshops and materials are being developed and shared across Mayan villages in Yucatan State in a collaboration between the Crane Center and Solyluna School in Merida, Mexico. Crane Center Executive Director, Laura Justice works with mother-trainers in Mexico’s poorest region. Learn how they get books into the hands of children in need. 

Scaffolding with Storybooks

Dr. Justice developed and published this essential research-based guide, which provides strategies and sample interactions to help teachers and caregivers strengthen children’s knowledge of written language, vocabulary, phonology, the alphabet, narrative discourse, and the world around them 

Download Scaffolding with Storybooks.