Rereading Helps Children to Reinforce, Deepen, and Consolidate Learning From Reading
More rigorous English language arts standards worldwide are revitalizing the longstanding but too often overlooked instructional technique of rereading. An integral part of the directed reading lesson, rereading typically occurred toward the end of the lesson for the purpose of extending comprehension of content. Students were guided to reread excerpts for new purposes, such as investigating a concept, generalizing, and thinking critically or creatively, after reading and discussion. When Ms. Wilson says, for example, “Reread the section on eating disorders and, based on the facts, decide which one is most dangerous,” she sets a new purpose different from that established in the before-reading phase—read to learn facts about eating disorders.
Today's version of rereading is focused on intensive reading or close reading, which involves multiple readings for purposes of text analysis during and after reading (Shanahan, 2012). This is no cursory return to the text for a different purpose, but rather a careful consideration of how the text works to communicate concepts, principles, themes, arguments, and so forth. Students reread to develop an aggressive, probing, analytical approach to what the text says and how it says it—the function of details, for example, or logical order and relationships in text organization. When Mr. Madrid asks his third graders to first reread to identify topic sentences in a set of related paragraphs, then to examine how supporting details clarify the topic within and across them, next to search for any inconsistencies in the information, and finally to discuss how the paragraphs are ordered to build a chain of reasoning (temporal order, spatial order, or some other system), he is engaging them in close reading.
Two primary sources of evidence support the instructional technique of rereading as intensive reading. One is the research base, which shows the benefits of rereading for increasing comprehension. Research shows, for example, that rereading improves meta-comprehension accuracy, that is, the ability to monitor and assess one's own comprehension in learning new material—a critical strategy when reading to learn complex material (Rawson, Dunlosky, & Thiede, 2000). The other is expert opinion based on scholarly thought and work. This is well illustrated in the classic text, How to Read a Book, by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren (1972; first published in 1940), in which the authors explain how to be a demanding reader who rereads to “x-ray” a text and determine the author's message. How to Read a Book is a teacher's manual no teacher should be without when implementing rereading as close reading in best practice.