Do you know the two reading types? Active and passive

Reading researcher Merete Brudholm operates with two types of readers, which she calls active and passive readers. The passive reader reads with the intention of getting it over with, and typically the reader thinks about many other things while reading the text. During passive reading, the reader doesn’t consider why they are reading the text or what is expected of them. There is a lack of investment in the reading process.  When reading passively, it becomes difficult to remember what you have read. This can lead to academic challenges, as the student lacks information – even though the required texts have been read.

In contrast to the passive reader is the active reader. This type of reader asks their own questions about the text before, during and after reading. Merete Brudholm explains: “The active reader is awake and attentive, and their goal is to understand the text and learn more. It’s about having a good experience and being able to remember and reproduce the text afterwards”.  With this type of reader, there is a high level of engagement and therefore much better conditions for a good outcome of the reading process.

To train passive readers to become more active and invested in reading, Brudholm borrows the tools introduced by Lori D. Oczkus called ‘the Fab Four’: Predicting, Questioning, Clarifying and Summarising.

Predict involves students talking to their teacher about what they imagine the given text might be about before they actually read it. Brudholm encourages students to look at the images and headline, and on that basis, let themselves be guided in the direction of the text’s content. It is also a good idea to look at the table of contents, back cover text, and illustrations. Brudholm recommends that students use the phrase, ‘I think so-and-so will happen because…’, to summarise their ideas about the text.

Question involves students asking themselves questions about the text as they read: ‘I wonder… who, what, when and why?’ Some of the answers to the questions will be found directly in the text and others they will have to figure out by reading between the lines.

Clarify involves students having a dialogue with the teacher while reading about what the difficult words in the text mean. Sometimes a careful and slow reading of the word in question, will be enough to understand it, while at other times additional help is needed from the teacher.

Summarising involves students explaining what they have read by verbalising the content of the text.

Brudholm’s argument for why the four strategies above should be integrated into teaching, is based on international research on  reciprocal teaching which shows that children and young adults become better at understanding if the Fab Four are part of the teaching. Brudholm recommends that the strategy is incorporated into everything students read.

We have looked at a distinction between the passive/unconscious reader and the active/conscious reader. There is no doubt about the direction we at FrontRead want to lead students in – towards becoming active/conscious readers who can critically analyse the texts they read and understand and relate to them. This requires a great amount of energy, and it also requires, among other things, being able to orientate yourself in a large amount of texts in order to know where to place your mental resources.