Previous chapters have shown how the ways in which individuals have come to understand the construct of ‘reading’, and indeed ‘shared reading’, are embedded in discourses of power and authority and are shaped by the various systems within which a person resides. We argued in Chapter 2 that perceptions of reading continue to be dominated by the school discourse, despite the fact that we also know that the home environment is critical in supporting children’s literacy and language development in different ways (Griffin & Morrison, 1997; Park, 2008; Brown et al., 2013). Given that shared reading has particular benefits for children (Bus et al., 1995; Mol et al., 2008), it is important to understand how shared reading operates within families, yet very little is known about the ways in which it is constructed, developed and practiced in homes. This is especially true of shared reading with young children, which has tended to be researched from the perspective of ‘educational endeavour’, rather than understanding what it is, how it functions within families and what families gain from the practice.

The Shared Reading Project was designed to enable parents to talk in detail about their lives with their young children and discuss the motivators and barriers to shared reading within the context of everyday family life. Data from this study indicates that shared reading occupies a significant role in these families’ lives. This, and the following three chapters explore how shared reading functions as an everyday practice in homes, what motivates parents to read with their children, what parents need in order to begin or sustain shared reading activity in the home, the factors that act as barriers to shared reading and the ways in which parents’ own reading relationships connect with their shared reading practices with their children. This present chapter begins with an insight into what shared reading is for these families and how it forms part of everyday family practices (Morgan, 1996), how it is used to display aspects of family life (Finch, 2007) and what shared reading does for the family. The chapter closes with a brief look at the materials that families use within their shared reading activity.