Guided reading is the step between shared reading and independent reading. It is a process used by teachers and parents to build confidence and skill in their young readers.

In a school based setting, a teacher would divide their pupils into groups of approximately six children. These children would then read a book or text chosen by the teacher that the teacher knows suits their reading level (about 95% accuracy). The children do not read in turn but instead read individually, they do not have to read the same text. Beginner readers may choose to read aloud but in a very quiet voice that will not disturb other pupils.

Guided reading allows children to progress from their current reading level to the next, regardless of whether this level is above or below the level appropriate to their age. Youngsters are usually grouped with peers who demonstrate similar reading levels and texts are chosen that can be read without much support. Students ought to be able to read these texts with fluency but with the opportunity for challenges and problem solving. This way their reading levels are pushed along and they are slowly improving their skillset.

The teacher offers support by facilitating discussion around the texts, offering focus and assisting with deciphering new words and meanings through phonics and reading strategies. With guided reading there is the opportunity to have different focuses within each literacy lesson and a reading workshop model can be adopted. For example, one session could focus on free choice reading, whilst another could be a focus group around the responses to the previous guided reading session.

The role of the teacher is to offer support within what is usually about fifteen minutes of set reading time, answering questions but not reading the text for the child.

The benefits of guided reading are large and make a big difference to the literacy levels of school students. The benefits of guided reading can include:

  • Guided reading can help teach the child to read from left to right. This isn’t always a natural process for many students, and guided reading can make them accustomed to doing so.
  • Guided reading allows the child to become familiar with the common words in the English language. ‘The’ and ‘and’ are two words that appear frequently and the quest for guided reading is that the students soon memorise and recognize these simple words so that they cease to sound out these words that are so familiar and instead read them without pause.
  • Guided reading gives children the opportunity to correct their own errors, without having a quick fix from mum, dad or teacher. The coach in a guided reading session should support the student in deciphering their own answers to questions that arise, thus empowering the young person to have confidence in their ability.
  • Perhaps most importantly of all, guided reading offers a set time a day for reading practice and this is what improves literacy. By reading independently in a supporting environment within a group of peers on a similar level the child can achieve the goals of literacy more readily.
  • Guided reading can assist the students in becoming familiar with the technique of storytelling i.e. the beginning, middle and end. This in turn can influence the child’s own creative process but also familiarise him or her with the story process and what to expect when reading.
  • With guided reading, the child can begin to use sight cues, that is, deciphering a word by using the pictures that accompany the text. For instance, if a child is having trouble with the word ‘beach’, a coach can assist in the deciphering by pointing out the sand in picture, the water in the picture and the people playing in the sand.
  • Guided reading is a great opportunity for children to understand grammar and punctuation. By seeing it on the page, most pupils will quickly understand these conventions.

Encouraging children to spend some time reading a one is very valuable and is something that can also be encouraged in the home. Instead of reading a book to your child, ask him or her to spend time reading it independently first and then ask him to read it to you. Together you can decipher problems that arose when the child tried solo.

In the classroom, guided reading builds confidence and allows for a smooth transition into independent reading. In a non-judgemental environment and when grouped with peers of a similar ability, a child will feel more comfortable raising concerns and question which in turn will help him move onto the next level of literacy. 

Guided Reading Leonardo Dawson is associated with Pandora Books , who have been a trusted supplier of books direct to Britain’s schools for over 20 years, and provide specially complied book collections to meet the criteria of the National Curriculum and the National Literacy strategy.

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