If you walk into any school, they will be conducting guided reading groups in literacy, particularly in younger years, but guided reading is so important all the way through school and beyond. That is why people still join book clubs in adulthood. The joy of talking about books never ceases. Talking about books does not have to be a prescribed activity but can happen in a variety of ways.
What is Guided Reading?
Guided reading is where a teacher, or parent, encourages and promotes independence when reading. It aims to increase readers’ confidence with a wide variety of texts, opening them up to new and interesting books. Guided Reading is best done in small groups where children can learn from each other as well as the teacher. However, you can also take part in guided reading at home with your child. Jacqueline Wilson, famed author of the Tracy Beaker stories, stresses the importance of reading to your children well into their teenage years.
Finding the right book
Finding the book that will capture and excite your child is always a tricky prospect. There are so many options out there that it can feel completely overwhelming for both you and your child.
The first thing to consider is your child. What are they interested in? Do they like reading novels, comic books, picture books, short stories, poems? Do they like adventure, romance, comedy, detective stories, animal stories? Narrow it down. Make a list together.
Think about your child’s reading level. You want to find a text that is at or slightly beyond their realistic reading level. If they are stretched too far, they will get discouraged. A love of reading starts with their own interests and abilities. If they enjoy the books, they will keep reading and will eventually be able to read more challenging books.
So now you have your list, but what to do with it? Take your list to the local library or to a bookshop and ask. Google “Top books for a 10 year old.” Ask your child’s school for suggestions and a reading list. And then, give it a go. If the book is not working, change it. Don’t keep struggling with it if your child is just not interested or finding it too challenging. In spite of this last sentence, you can still work together through a tricky book by asking questions and using visual tools to decipher the content and meaning of a text.
One of the most important things a teacher can do is to ask the right questions which expand and direct thinking. You, as a parent, can continue this at home. If you notice a particular interest in a part of the story, ask your child “why” and “how”. Delve into the nitty gritty of the text.
It can be difficult to know what the right questions are to ask. So many just ask “what has happened in the story?” This is an incredibly important question. However, it should not be the end of the conversation, but the beginning.
At Meta Prep, we explicitly teach questioning to children using Anderson’s thinking levels, revised from Bloom, and our Q-Matrix. These visual tools encourage asking different types of questions. Instead of just asking, “Who is Harry Potter?” we can ask, “What might have happened to Harry Potter if he hadn’t met Ron and Hermione?” or “Which character had the greatest impact on Harry Potter?” This prompts us to think deeper about a character and the situation they are faced with. These questions can be asked by you or your child; ask them what questions they have about the text.
To increase understanding and thinking even further, create a journal. This can include images, musings, vocabulary and questions about what your child is reading. Seeing everything written down can open up more doors to interesting trains of thought.
Use the journal to create a personal dictionary of words. Write down words that your child doesn’t know the meaning of or interesting words that they would like to remember and use for future reference. Have a dictionary on hand to look up new words. Find other examples of how that word is used in different contexts. This broadens understanding of how the English language is formed and can be used. Having a good grasp on literacy, including vocabulary and grammar, is essential to the 11+ exams.
Thinking frames, developed by Thinking Matters and used during Meta Prep lessons, are visual tools to help enrich a child’s thinking. The eight different processes can be used to encourage children to think in different ways and find keywords in a piece of writing which lead to greater understanding. Using thinking frames, you can compare and contrast two characters, describe the setting, find the cause and effect of a decision that was made, or sequence the key events.
These thinking frames can then be used as a jumping off point for creative projects, such as an art project, writing a poem or creative writing in response. With younger children, making the book characters out of play dough is fun or they could write a letter of apology from the wolf for blowing down the houses of the three little pigs. Older children can pretend they are the main character and write a diary entry revealing their feelings.
So, what to do now?
Keep reading with your children! Read to each other, ask questions, spend time together. These moments between parents and children will continue for years to come and will foster a love of reading. With the right questioning and deeper dives into the texts, greater understanding and enjoyment will come, opening the doors to a whole host of topics spurred on by reading.
To learn more about thinking levels and thinking processes, sign up for one of our holiday workshops during the October half-term. We are offering short workshops in metacognition, creative writing, maths skills and an introduction to reasoning. To find out more, click here.