Date of Award

Fall 2022

Degree Type



Educational Studies

Director of Thesis

Dra. Julia López-Robertson

Second Reader

Dr. Angela McLeod


Literacy has long been recognized as critical to success in and out of the classroom (Duchouquette, 2014; Hernandez, 2011; National Center for Family Literacy, 2008), having significant impact on students’ ability to achieve positive outcomes in academic, professional, social, and personal domains. Research suggests that this correlation is established at an early age (Cunningham & Zibulsky, 2011, Storch & Whitehurst, 2002, National Center for Family Literacy, 2008), giving urgency to the provision of high-quality early literacy education and to the identification of best practices in this area. Outside of explicit teaching, one of the most popular of these practices is shared book-reading, where adult and child engage interactively with one another and a text; numerous studies have investigated the impact of this activity on aspects of literacy learning as well as how these benefits can best be realized. However, while these studies have generated a litany of recommended shared book-reading strategies, research to date has been primarily experimental to determine the effectiveness of each approach. This study, in contrast, is concerned with implementation, exploring how shared book-reading is executed in real-world settings, what factors influence the manner in which it is performed, and what improvements might be feasible to maximize its benefit to children’s literacy development.

To answer these questions, the present study analyzed the shared book-reading of a small sample of teachers and speech-language pathologists working with children ages 4—7 in local schools. The participants, 8 in total, were observed while conducting shared book-reading and interviewed regarding their beliefs about the practice – namely, the primary purposes they expected it to serve – and the behaviors and statements manifested in these interactions were analyzed in comparison to the body of research concerning literacy and shared book-reading. A literature review revealed 8 critical focus areas for analyses, including general best practices, 5 essential precursor literacy skills that shared book-reading could be used to support – alphabetic knowledge, phonological awareness, phonological memory, print concepts, and oral language – and the 2 related targets of narrative structure and literacy engagement. The study identified strategies each participant used under these categories, analyzed patterns across participants explaining variation, and used findings to develop a list of high-impact strategies that adult readers might implement to increase the value of shared book-reading in their own classrooms, clinics, or homes.

Within this sample, participants largely aligned with the ideals expressed in the literature, both in the beliefs they articulated and in their practice; variations between participants primarily existed in the extent to which the different aspects of literacy were prioritized. This was largely a factor of children’s age, as participants shifted from a focus on the love of reading to decoding skills to deeper comprehension as students’ age increased. This is a logical progression of instructional objectives; however, where it differs from the research is that the most foundational precursor skills – alphabetic knowledge and phonological awareness – were rarely addressed. Participants held a predominant view of shared book-reading as an oral language activity, reserving other skills for direct instruction; however, all learning is enhanced when it is integrated in relevant, meaningful contexts, and it would benefit children to have naturalistic, embedded opportunities to rehearse what they are being taught. This finding, among others in the study, offers valuable insights for those seeking to support the literacy development of young children, providing both positive examples of strategies that might be implemented in everyday contexts and facilitating recognition of potential areas for improvement. By better understanding what possibilities exist, we can better optimize literacy instruction and better secure our students’ success.

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