Paired Reading

Daily reading practice is integral to reading growth. With the decline of home reading, it is more important than ever that we build reading practice time into our classroom schedules.  This is different than silent reading period, where students choose their own book and read independently.  Paired reading involves good fit books and the opportunity to read aloud.

Teaching the Structure

One of the keys to successful paired reading is teaching students the structure of the activity.  It may take several sessions to establish expectations and the routine.  Do not disregard Paired Reading after a week or two if students are struggling to maintain stamina or work with their buddies.

Pairing Students

Students should be paired with peers with similar reading abilities in order to share appropriately leveled books.  Using your screening data, pair each student with a peer at the same reading level.

Behaviors can often be a concern when pairing students.  You may have several students who have “flex partners.” These students are paired with a variety of students and adults, depending on how their day is going and the number of adults in the room.  Some days they may be reading independently.

Students Working as a Team

Consideration needs to be given to not only reading level, but speed and accuracy. In many pairings, there is often one student who is a stronger decoder.  Students will need continual encouragement with allowing their partner the time to figure out a new or challenging word.  Buddies are encouraged to wait and allow their partner the opportunity to figure out a word.  If a student is unable to decode a word, or decodes it incorrectly, then the buddy can share what the word is. This takes a significant amount of practice and instructional reinforcement on the part of the teacher.

Choosing Material

Finding an adequate number of leveled resources can be tricky.  For emergent readers, a selection of decodable texts is critical.  Once students are reading independently, leveled PM books, Scholastic Literacy Place or other materials can be used. Many books have a lexile level listed on the back.  The following is a chart which compares Lexile Levels and other benchmark programs with PM Benchmarks:

Selecting appropriate books takes skill on the part of the teacher.  Just because a Scholastic Literacy Place says it is level B, that does not mean it is appropriate for an emergent reader.  As an educator, your skills will grow in this area.  Allow yourself a few misses along the way and be patient with yourself as you learn how to find appropriate leveled books for your students.

In Grade two and up, there are many novels or short chapter books that work well for paired reading.  Each students should have their own copy.

Work towards a blend of materials for paired reading.  Once you start looking for material you may be surprised at how much you find.  Fiction, nonfiction, picture books, quick reads, novels, etc are all good choices.  Children’s newspapers, instructional brochures and other reading material will help round out your reading bag.

Each bag should have a range of material centered around the student’s reading level.  The bulk of the books should be at their independent reading level, but an easy book and a challenge book are also a good addition.

Multiple books: Try to have a copy of the same book for each student. This encourages students to read along when their partner is reading and will avoid potential squirmiest over hold and seeing the book.

Exchanging Books

The Role of Adults During Paired Reading

Book Bags

Individual zip lock bags  work well for paired reading. Zippered cloth bags or heavy plastic folders with a snap closure would be even more environmentally friendly. These should be stored together in a tub or bin.  Each bag should have the student’s name on it.  Although students are reading in pairs, it is easier to have individual bags so that it is easy to switch partners and customize the bag for student needs.

Support Materials

The Support material in each bag differs depending on the needs of the student. Students begin each reading time with their support materials and then turn to reading.

Emergent readers: rings of tricky words, common words and emergent word phrases

phrases, tricky words, common words

When Students are Absent

There is no way to wait for students or have students catch up reading longer books or novels if they are away. If students are absent, their reading buddy typically reads independently and “catches up” the buddy when they return.  You may also repair students if several are away and have them read short picture books, or approrpriate material.


Paired Reading Structure

  1. Hand out the bags.  Thoughful consideration of how the bags are handed out can make or break the start to paired reading time.  Books can be on desks when students come in in the morning, they can be handed out in pairs, they can be laid out on a counter and one buddy goes and gets the bags for both students, etc.
  2. Students begin by reading and/or going through their support materials.
  3. Students choose a book to start with.  If there are struggles with who chooses, have students take turns. Start with the student who has a birthday closest to the date or the first letter of the name that comes first in the alphabets, etc.
  4. Students take turns reading aloud either a page or a paragraph depending on the length of the book. While one student reads, the other follows along and offers support when needed (see Working as a Team above).

Establishing Paired Reading in your classroom does not mean that your students should only select and read good fit books! Paired reading is a specific time set aside to practice and develop reading skills. In the school and classroom library, students should be encouraged to select a wide range of material for their perusal and reading pleasure.