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Why can't we form reading groups based on interest - Really?

 by hilton on 20 Apr 2012 |
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Last week I followed a discussion in a literacy forum which explored the idea that guided reading groups using age-graded texts (chosen by the teacher) was unenlightened. It went something like this - If we truly want motivated readers they should chose text that interested them regardless of the difficulty and we should gather children together for instructional reading based on their interests.
 
While I echo these thoughts unreservedly for recreational reading - children should be encouraged to read whatever takes their fancy and when we see it happening we should applaud and celebrate - we are missing the boat if we carry this into instructional reading. It suggests that we are still living with the 'Learning to Read' - 'Reading to Learn' dichotomy where once a student is a fluent decoder the job is done and we move away from the explicit teaching of reading strategies and focus on content, motivation, mileage.
 
But we all know that many of our fluent decoders are not processing text. Certainly they can 'read it' but now they need to learn to wrestle with it; to construct meaning and think critically. To do this they need text which is in Vygotsky's ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) - text that provide just the right amount of challenge - text at the appropriate instructional level.
 
There is so much work that can be done and should be done in those preciously hard fought for guided reading groups but it can only be done effectively with material that is at the right level.

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