Reading experiences in the first few years of schooling are key to future successes. Guided reading is one possible whole-school strategy to ensure positive experiences when learning to read in Arabic. Guided reading involves working with a small group of similarly-attaining pupils. Reading a text with accessible challenge, they are taught to apply and extend reading strategies. It is a powerful teaching methodology designed to ensure that pupils acquire positive reading attitudes and motivations as well as reading skills and knowledge of words and letters. Therefore, the books we use for guided reading lessons need to be more than words brought together to satisfy a prescribed learning sequence. They need to be worth reading.
We need to choose wisely. The criteria below will help ensure that every guided reading experience you provide uses texts that will help inspire reading motivation by helping you choose a ‘just right’ book.
1 Is the book designed for guided reading?
Not all books for early readers are compatible with the guided reading methodology. A guided reading lesson for early readers is designed to support progress in many areas of literacy learning:
- Comprehension of the text’s message, avoiding the pitfalls of a reliance on decoding at a later stage when diacritics are no longer used
- Letter knowledge and how to use known letters as a source of information whilst reading
- Learning how to decode letter sounds from right to left into whole words
- Knowledge of high frequency words to support fluent reading
- Language development so that the grammar and vocabulary used in the Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) language register become increasingly accessible
Not all texts for early readers offer these characteristics, focusing instead on just one or two aspects of the reading process; this is not helpful in a guided reading lesson.
2 Does the book have good content?
In order to develop motivation to read, books need to have well-conceived stories or interesting information that relate to pupils’ own experience and interests. Early texts need to be well-authored in written language that builds on rich oral language experiences but empowers through effective use of register. Clear story structure – problem – climax – resolution – encourages the development of reading comprehension and makes pupils want to read. Satisfying story content and endings are the reward of reading.
3 Is the text strongly supported by clear design and layout?
Some early for guided reading texts include poor or distracting layout inappropriate spacing between words that don’t facilitate clear demonstration of directional and matching principles. These need to be avoided in favour of books that present text clearly, have enlarged spaces between words and clear fonts. This allows discrimination of letters and diacritics to develop as quickly as possible. As learners progress, they will need to meet diversity and variety in all of these areas and these features become less of a consideration in book choice.
4 Are the illustrations clear and supportive?
Illustrations are an integral part of early reading. They extend the meaning conveyed in the text. But they should not detract attention from the text or take away the need to attend closely to print to understand the author’s message. Good illustrations add an additional source of information to the reader, not dominating or distracting.
Choosing books for guided reading is a skill worth developing. Effective book choices for guided reading lessons ease pupils into reading MSA and provide successful experiences with books. Engaging books for guided reading lessons, like those included in the Arabic Club Readers series, help forge reading motivation that lasts a lifetime.
By: Sue Bodman