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  • cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly
  • determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings
  • analyze how the parts of a text contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.

Such an approach represents a sharp turn from the subjective reader-response methods of teaching reading that have trickled down over the past several decades. No longer will there be an emphasis on politicized readings over what texts actually say.

This kind of deep reading has been shown in recent research in the cognitive sciences to be an experience distinct from the more superficial decoding of words that comprises much of our daily reading. In fact, these studies demonstrate that deep reading cultivates the brain's ability to feel empathy and makes readers "morally or socially better"—but only through the kind of slow, reflective reading the Common Core standards encourage.

Despite whatever bureaucratic or pragmatic difficulties the Common Core State Standards pose (and surely, there are some), evangelicals can take heart that others share our understanding of the significance of reading. "Reading is resonant," Coleman explained during the meeting. "It's not important just for academic life, but for work life and spiritual life, too."

Indeed, the kind of careful readers the Common Core literacy standards seek to develop are exactly the kind of readers that people of a Word-based faith seek to cultivate, too: readers encouraged to develop command of textual knowledge, to ask reverent questions of the text, to rely on textual evidence making judgments and drawing conclusions, and to demonstrate these skills by producing their own skillful texts.

In short, the Common Core standards of reading promise to revitalize the fading art of reading well. For Christians, this is indeed good news.

Karen Swallow Prior, Ph.D., is a professor of English at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. She is the author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and a regular writer for Her.meneutics.

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The Good News of Common Core