Overview of the book

Having introduced the concept of shared reading in this chapter, and explained our justification for focusing on this, the next chapter (Chapter 2) takes a step back and explores how the overall concept of ‘reading’ can be understood when we explore it from a sociological perspective. We look at how the home and school contexts are responsible for the socialisation of reading, concluding that reading is a value-laden activity, embedded in discourses of power and shaped by systems and beliefs. Chapter 3 returns to a focus on shared reading, exploring how factors such as culture and ethnicity, as well as social factors, are linked with shared reading in families. This chapter also shows how shared reading is a highly complex phenomenon, influenced by social and cultural structures as well as the unique features of everyday family life.

Chapter 4 moves to the research that is presented in this book. We introduce the study and explain the methods that were used to conduct the research. We focus attention on the process of developing the in-depth interviews which allowed us to gain an insight into the lives of our participants. Chapters 5 to 8 present a detailed overview of what we learned from talking to the parents in our study. Chapter 5 demonstrates how reading was an everyday practice for many of the families in this study; we show how these families used shared reading to structure and manage daily life as well as display aspects of ‘being a family’. Building on this, Chapter 6 explores parents’ motivation for reading, focusing on the link between enjoyment and feedback within the activity and showing how these factors are part of a reciprocal cycle that develops within shared reading relationships. Chapter 7 turns to potential barriers to shared reading, demonstrating that just as shared reading can happen for many different reasons, there are a number of factors that can inhibit or prevent the practice from taking place. By getting to know the families in this study we grew to understand how immensely important it is for parent and child to enjoy the activity, suggesting that it is not enough for practitioners to simply encourage parents to read with their children, but they must support parents in finding ways to make the activity enjoyable for all. Chapter 8 concludes this section of the book by exploring the parents’ own relationships with reading and the ways in which this linked with shared reading practices with their children. This chapter shows how for some of the parents in this study, shared reading with their children had a positive impact on their own relationships with reading which they both recognised and valued.

The final two chapters of the book turn to the implications of this study for practitioners working with families. By reflecting on the data presented in Chapters 5 to 8, we present a new definition for shared reading in homes that is characterised by ‘The Four T’s’ of text, talk, time and togetherness. Chapter 9 examines how this understanding, and indeed the findings presented throughout this book, can be used by practitioners to support their work with families. Chapter 10 brings the book to a conclusion by demonstrating how shared reading in the home offers a very different definition of reading to that of the school, which, we argue, can inhibit shared reading practices and in some cases stifle children’s engagement with reading altogether. By making this comparison transparent, we conclude this book by showing why it is important for parents to continue shared reading practices after their children start school, and into the future for as long as they can.