So I guess I better start by making my basic opinions clear before moving on. I firmly believe that the concept of guided reading is sound and beneficial to students as a whole. It is very good at giving students the small group interaction and on point instruction that they need to become good at reading. Also the opinions expressed are mostly directed to those teaching reading in upper levels and not those teaching beginning readers. That being said, what I believe guided reading is not good at is making students good at thinking about books. The point of guided reading is to meet students at their level and teach them the skills they need to move up to the next level. What is lacking is meaningful discussion about books. Some will disagree and say it depends on how you approach the discussions during your group time. Lets be real, it is like pulling teeth trying to have a deep meaningful discussion about a book that is 8 pages long. There simply is not enough meat in it to go much further than the prescribed skill for that particular lesson. Reading groups, as a stand alone, kill the love of reading. Those that love reading love it for the way it makes them feel and the invigorating discussions that can come from a shared experience.
"Okay LaBarge, get off that horse and show us what you are getting at!"
Another reality facing teachers is that there is not enough time in a school day to do all of the things that we would like to do. A fun, relaxing literature circle is just not in the schedule. How can we offer students the chance to interact about literature outside the regular schedule? We need to meet them where they spend there lives...the internet. A virtual book club can give students a chance to read real books that are at there level, and teachers a chance to pose real questions and have real discussions about how books tie into our lives and the world. The beauty is that you don't even have to run the group. Anybody who shares an interest in reading can share the experience of a good book. Invite your administrator to run a group. Get the nurse to join in. Instead of running a group in your class, partner up with another grade or even another school.
Tomorrow I will lay out how to get this up and running. It is actually easier than it sounds. In the mean time, pick out some good books you want to share and think big.
We can change the world...