The development of close reading and critical reading strategies is essential to academic, and personal, success. The process is perpetual; we all pick up new ideas, words and ideas as we encounter new texts. For children, this is fast and furious, and it may help to organize their thinking about reading by focusing in on different aspects of close reading during shared reading at home.
Close reading consists of reading for meaning, understanding what you don’t know and seeking clarity, asking questions, making connections, generating new ideas and interacting with the text. It involves word meanings, sentence meanings, understanding of point of view and context, recognition of text features, understanding of symbolic intent, and constructing personal meaning. Each of these is a separate function, and can be worked on one by one.
When a person reads closely they very often write all over the text; that is helpful. It should not be overdone, instead it should be done with meaning and effect, and children should be taught the skills of effective highlighting. Highlighting words that need defining is effective. Boxing out sentences that seem central to the purpose is also useful. A child should be allowed, and instructed in, how to take these steps and drive home comprehension.
Making connections is something that happens on a personal level and through discussion of shared texts. When you read a book or watch movie with a child, and discuss the connections to other movies or books, this fosters this reading strategy. Asking a child why the connection is interesting or important can help deepen their analytic skills and ability to express analytic thought.
Recognizing bias and point of view is very important, and builds the ability to evaluate information. Discussing religious, political, economic, cultural – all sorts of factors – and helping a child understand how it may impact how someone else sees the world, allows a child to develop a broad base in evaluation of sources.
Symbolic and authorial intent is also something that can be encouraged at home; asking a young child why the author or their favorite book wrote their favorite book, can elicit interesting response and set a course for understanding that there is a purpose to the text. Individual items or objects within texts or movies often have significant symbolic meaning, and discussing with a child what those may be can help them identify symbolic possibility as they read closely.
Reading is essential; it helps us pick up invaluable clues in life. Close reading takes many years to fully be able to do; it is a guided process and should be directly instructed at the junctures in which it can.
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