Building literacy with paired texts is an exciting concept in guided reading instruction. Through intentional pairing of texts, teachers present students with opportunities to develop literacy in considerable ways. The students:
- Develop greater comprehension on a topic
As students read paired texts, they explore similar concepts and vocabulary for greater understanding of the ideas that surround a topic. A nonfiction text may introduce the ideas and vocabulary necessary to initially understand and discuss the topic; a paired fiction text offers students the challenge of deepening their understandings by experiencing the ideas presented in a different genre, setting, or situation. Through ongoing discussion of the ideas presented in these pairs, students solidify their abilities to think and discuss in deeper ways.
- Develop a range of reading strategies
Students build flexibility in strategy use as they read paired texts. By encountering texts that have different purposes, structures, and features, students experience multiple opportunities to apply strategies in meaningful ways. Because the best text pairings share similar ideas, students develop flexible ways to make meaning around a topic and its related ideas.
- Increase abilities to think about a topic from different perspectives
Through thoughtfully paired texts, students experience a much broader and thorough exposure to the concepts and facts related to a topic as presented in varied genre. If texts are connected based on ideas, and written in different genre, each text brings a varied perspective. For example, an informational report might describe the ecosystem of a tree and the animals that use that tree in varied ways, highlighting how they co-exist; a contrasting narrative might illustrate each animal with a selfish nature claiming the tree as “my tree”. Each brings a different perspective to the notion of ecosystems and allows students to think through the roles of individuals within a collective, in a text designed for readers at a particular reading stage.
- Support learners to write in more authentic ways
As students read across paired texts written in varied genre, they experience writing with varied purposes and in varied structures. What we know as a writer, we know first as a reader. Through reading about ideas and topics in paired texts, students develop strong understandings of how different texts work and how they might choose to present their thinking through writing. While reading an explanation about wildfires might explore the causes and effects of a wildfire, a paired narrative text might explore the decisions a family makes about what to save as they evacuate their home during a wildfire. Each of these texts supports students to understand the issues related to the topic, while each genre supports students to understand how authors might convey those understandings. When building literacy with paired texts, the thinking work of readers and writers expands, creating new “habits of mind” for considering ideas between and across texts.