Common Core reading anchor standard one outlines the expectation that students should:
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from text.
This standard has drawn tremendous attention to “close, careful reading” leaving many to wonder what this means, exactly. One of the best books that we know that deals with this topic is Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicky Vinton’s What Readers Really Do: The Process of Meaning Making.
This book is based upon the premise that “we don’t actually read to practice inferring, identify a conflict, or learn what someone else has said…about the symbolism” but rather “those skills and this kind of knowledge all are a means to an end, but not the end itself.”
In this book, Barnhouse and Vinton introduce tools like the KNOW/WONDER chart where students carefully read line-by-line and track their thinking about what they “know” and what this part of the story makes them “wonder.” As students do this work either collaboratively or independently, they call upon several strategies that require readers to cite evidence to support the inferences, ideas, and conclusions they are drawing as they read—all very Common Core ideas of what it means to read “closely and carefully.” This highly engaging tool allows students to integrate several comprehension strategies while actively setting a purpose for reading that helps them to notice things that might have gone unnoticed on a more cursory reading—again, the very purpose of the “close, careful reading” espoused by the Common Core.
As students become familiar and comfortable with this tool, Barnhouse and Vinton add new layers by adding a column for “other patterns this might connect with.” This demonstrates to students the importance of identifying how parts of a text are related—yet another aspect of close reading outlined by Common Core reading anchor standard number five. Barnhouse and Vinton’s book is unfailingly committed to reading closely, thinking critically, and in their own words, teaching children “the way readers think as they read, not what to think.”