Paired Reading

How to use reading with others to encourage your child's progress in reading.

By Tracey Wood

Bridging the gap
When Johnny can read basic books but not harder and more interesting books "paired reading" bridges the gap. In paired reading we read out loud with Johnny to help him develop fluency, confidence and comprehension. Without our help his reading would be slow and labored and he'd lose the sense of the text.

Where to begin
Choose exciting or fun books that are slightly above Johnny's current ability and plan to read regularly for at least 20 minutes each time. Try out these different types of paired reading to see which suits Johnny best:

Alternated reading
This is when we read out loud to Johnny and ask him to take his turn too. We split the book evenly, one page or chapter each, or we do most of the reading ourselves. Gauge Johnny's willingness and divide the text accordingly. If he's reluctant, it's OK to have him read only one sentence per page (he can choose his sentence) until he's more confident.

Choral reading
This is when we read out loud together, in unison. If we read very slightly ahead of Johnny he can follow our lead when he gets stuck with a word. If we read slightly behind Johnny we'll know he's doing most of the work! When we get well co-ordinated there's another variant too. -We jump in and out of Johnny's reading according to whether he needs our help or not. Johnny nudges us when he wants us to read with him and nudges again when he wants us to stop.

Incomplete reading
This is a good technique when we know Johnny's problem is more lack of enthusiasm than lack of ability. -We read a really good book to Johnny then stop at a crucial point and leave him hanging! When we close our book we're hoping Johnny will be so captivated he'll simply have to read more for himself.

What about siblings?
If you have two children who each want to be involved, try rotating your attention. Read one book with Johnny then one with Jane. Perhaps another family member could do the other half of your rotation. With more than two children, try alternating paired reading with stories on tape. Libraries usually have lots to choose from and Johnny can enjoy harder books (like the Harry Potter series) he would otherwise miss out on.

A happy routine
Paired reading is effective. Johnny progresses because he enjoys the close interaction with us and gets to read an exciting book too. But to make sure paired reading works we must choose great books, be warm and supportive and make paired reading a regular and frequent habit.


Tracey Wood is a children’s reading specialist and the author of several books on teaching children to read, including Teaching Kids To Read for Dummies.