I ended up making copies of a few pages of the basal that we would be close reading. That way they could write on the story itself and make those connections. Anytime I tell my students they can use a highlighter, I have immediate buy-in ;)
That experience inspired me to make some differentiated nonfiction texts to use with my students. I also created some pieces to use in our interactive notebooks. I decided to go with a monthly theme, but I avoided all of the obvious holidays. For example, my August close read texts are about s'mores, swimming safety, Hawaii (they joined the Union in August), and state fairs. If you are interested in taking a closer look at close reading in general, you can get several freebies in my TpT store. There are also full topics in the previews of some of my paid products. Just click on the picture below to get there!