20 Years of Teaching Children to Read for a Lifetime of Enjoyment and Opportunity
2016 brought the publication of the second edition of Guided Reading, a seminal text that revolutionized the way children are taught reading throughout the United States. In the new edition, authors Irene Fountas—a Lesley professor—and Gay Su Pinnell use 20 years of insight and experience observing classrooms, trying new techniques, and talking with a variety of experts to remind and inform their readers of guided reading’s essential elements and its significant place in literacy learning.
In addition to a deeper understanding of guided reading's complexity and implementation, the new edition focuses on the concept of responsive teaching, “those moment-to-moment decisions that teachers make as they observe and analyze their students’ behaviors,” which then lead to more support for readers. Responsive teaching, they say, sends students a powerful message: "Reading is thinking."
The guided reading concept was originally developed by Marie Clay and others in New Zealand in the 1960s, and was developed further in the US by Fountas and Pinnell. With guided reading, teachers work with small groups of students whom they have assessed to be reading at similar levels, providing them with level-appropriate books and problem-solving guidance. In the process, they both nurture and promote the skills the child already has and challenge the child to advance to increasingly complex texts.
Further goals of guided reading include providing opportunities for children to problem solve, read for meaning, expand knowledge, and think deeply about the world they meet in books: in short, to become lifelong readers.
Choosing books that are just right: leveled books match texts to readers
Guided reading teachers use leveled books, texts that have been analyzed and leveled from easiest to hardest (A-Z, or kindergarten through high school), giving them a place to start when choosing books. To level books, experts use a system of ten text characteristics:
- language/literary features
- sentence complexity
- book and print features
Leveled books make guided reading instruction effective by reinforcing what children know and challenging them to higher levels of proficiency. As they progress, children are then grouped and regrouped in a dynamic and fluid process that involves the teacher's ongoing observation and assessment of each student.