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Shared Reading

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Problem Statement

To measure the kindergarten readiness of children enrolling in Ohio public schools, incoming kindergarten students take the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment– Literacy (KRA-L) test. Nearly half of the children entering kindergarten within Cincinnati Public Schools are below standard in early literacy and language development. Understanding and using oral language plays a key role in a child's literacy development and school success.

By age 3, children from higher talking families (2000 words an hour) have a vocabulary twice the size of children from families that talk the least (600 words an hour). Knowing more words gives a child the resources and tools to help them decipher words and sentences. The time from birth to 4 is an especially important time to develop the talking and listening skills that are necessary before a child learns the skills of alphabet knowledge, phonics, and print awareness. The relationship between a child’s skills as they enter school and their later academic performance is strikingly stable. A child’s vocabulary by age 5 is a major predictor of reading achievement by age 7.


The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County partnered with United Way/Success by 6 to develop the Shared Reading program to present to parents and staff at large day care facilities. Shared Reading is a 1.5-hour training by a children’s librarian that teaches the dialogic reading method. Dialogic reading is a research-based technique that increases oral language and vocabulary skills by encouraging young children to talk about what they see in picture books. Adults simply alter the way they typically read to children. Through a shift in reading roles, the child becomes the storyteller. Shared Reading teaches the adult to use 3 simple steps to encourage vocabulary growth: comment and wait, ask questions and wait, respond to what the child says and add a little bit more. Parents and caregivers are taught to ask open-ended questions that encourage conversation.


Research shows that Shared Reading can result in substantial changes in preschool children’s language skills. Shared reading gives parents and other caregivers the training they need to encourage language development. Children’s Librarians have trained over 1,500 parents and childcare providers in the Shared Reading method. Evaluation results indicate that over 93% of the program participants are satisfied or highly satisfied with the training, and 99.5% indicate that they have learned at least two skills or techniques that they can use. KRA-L scores for students entering Cincinnati Public Schools in 2009-2010 school year shows that 53.4% of incoming kindergarten students scored 19 points or higher out of a possible 29, up from 44% in 2006-2007.