This is a great question. There are many things that you can do to help students to construct meaning through reading and writing. Let me suggest a few ways.
First, you can ask students to try to find the main point of a passage or text. This is probably the easiest thing to do. Have them also give you a few reasons why they they this is the main point of the reading. They can even write a short essay on this.
Second, you can ask students to trace themes or motifs. This is a little more sophisticated. Ask them to explain how these motifs are used and developed.
Third, you can ask them to think about symbolism. Are there any symbols and if so, how do they work in the text?
Fourth, when the students are really good, then you can ask them to read some literary theory and have them apply this literary theory to texts.
Fifth, another fun exercise is to do comparisions and contrasts. Have them write an essay on how two peices of literature intersect. Or have them look at a theme in two different stories.
As you can see, the list is really limitless.