Close Reading for Beginning Readers? Probably Not

  • 16 July, 2013

Teacher question:

I am a first grade teacher. My principal has mandated that all classes K-5 do Close Reading. Is it appropriate for all ages? It seems to me that the texts at K/1 are not likely to be complex enough and that the students at this age are too concrete in their thinking.

 Shanahan response: 

Good question. I share your concerns. There are very few articles or stories appropriate for K/1 that would make any sense for close reading. The content usually just isn’t deep enough to bear such close study (and, frankly, if you look at the comprehension standards themselves, specifically standards #4-9 for those grades, it should be evident that CCSS doesn’t envision particularly close reading at these levels).

  I think the problem is the nature of typical beginning reading text, not the students’ intellectual capacities. Given that, several beginning-reading experts whom I have spoken with about this all agree: teachers can read wonderfully rich literature and informational texts to these young-uns, texts that would be too hard for the kids to read themselves. With your guidance they should be able to analyze such texts in terms of their craft and structure or their value and connection to other texts. Close listening experiences in Kindergarten and Grade 1 could lay a valuable foundation for the later development of close reading ability.

Some additional advice on this: (1) keep your eyes open for that very occasional beginning reading text that could support a close read (you're most likely to find such texts later in the year during Grade 1); and (2) don’t overdo it; close reading (or listening) is important, but it is not the only reading goal set forth by CCSS; every reading does not need to be a close reading. 


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Close Reading for Beginning Readers? Probably Not


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