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Reading Strategies: What Makes a Good Reader?

Updated on July 3, 2012

People believe good readers are those who can read anything that comes their way, can read fast, read much and read well, or have a set of preferences developed over a period of time with reading experiences. But they often miss out on one of the most important assets that goes into being a good reader: creative reading.

Creative reading isn't necessarily and only the flair to read between the lines and understand author's inherent intentions, suggestions or embedded allusions. It is the quality to be able to discern the genre and reading strategy of the book, to know if and when the author's intrusion is necessary to enjoy the book to its utmost, to be able to classify the books and authors according to varied parameters and know the time their reading will be best suited.

While classifying Books and their appropriate use Francis Bacon says " Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some others to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly and with diligence and attention." If a reader can successfully categorize his books in these categories and read accordingly, he/she can truly be called a creative reader.

Every Genre has a reading Strategy and every reading strategy can determine and affect your reading experience. When we read spiritual texts we often read them with our critical lenses kept aside. Though there are exceptions when people deconstruct the obvious notions of established facts and set on to write and read with an iconoclastic vision. But the fact is that you can truly enjoy a work of literature if you read it in the spirit in which it is written. To read Harry Potter or Narnia or Alice in Wonderland you have to get into the mode of 'willing suspension of disbelief' to really enjoy them. That is where the selection of genre and the reading strategies come together.

Similarly, to read an author's work in the light of his life experiences can give you a very good insight if you are reading a memoir, an autobiography, a biography or any other confessional literature. But to push the author's views, life and thinking into every other creative work of his might not be a very productive reading strategy.

This also varies from author to author, while some authors are known to have written confessional literature and works drawing material from their life, there are other authors who have always kept the creative and personal lives poles apart. A reader can miss out a lot on the underlying message if he/she reads Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Coleridge without delving into their Historical, social and personal background. But at the same time to read poets and writers like T.S.Eliot, Ezra Pound, and others who insisted on Impersonality and autotelic texts and by thrusting their personal lives onto their work might be hazardous.

Also, many people have a tendency to develop a certain kind of reading tactic which they invariably apply to every book they read. This often makes them dislike genres which do not fit their reading strategy. The key to enjoy reading is to become flexible when it comes to choosing books and to apply the reading strategy that best suits the work. Broadly classifying, there are two different types of reading strategies as laid down by literary critic Ronald Barthes.

Ronald Barthes divides works of literature into two types, the Readerly and the Writerly texts. He employs these terms to delineate one type of literature from another and to implicitly interrogate ways of reading.

The Readerly texts are those which open up to the reader on its own. The reader does not have to make any efforts to understand the plot, underlying meanings and the motives of the characters. In other words, Such kind of texts makes no requirement of the reader to "write" or "produce" his or her own meaning. It is a kind of passive reading where the reader is provided with 'ready made' meaning. The reader thinks what the author wants him to think and feel. Barthes opines that these types of texts are 'controlled by the principle of non-contradiction", i.e they do not disturb the common sense or 'dox' of the surrounding culture. Most or all of the Classic Literature falls into this category. Reading of such texts gives Pleasure to the reader..

The Other texts, the Writerly texts are the texts that aspires to the proper goal of literature and criticism to make the reader not the consumer but the producer of the text. Such texts are the ones which have the plot presented to the reader in the form of symbols, allusions, and other literary techniques. The writer has to get involved in the process of unveiling the meaning of the text to understand and appreciate it. Most of the Modern literature falls into this category. Reading of such kinds of texts gives Jouissance, a kind of Ecstasy. This ecstasy comes from deriving ones own interpretation of the text. It is in this context Barthes talks of his seminal concept of " The Death of Author". The author is dead in the sense that he does not determine the meaning of the text. The author's intentions in such reading is irrelevant and unnecessary. It is by the Death of Author there is 'The Birth of the Reader'.

Reading the Writerly texts is a challenging experience. Nonetheless, an exciting and creative one. People accustomed to Readerly texts, often get frustrated reading obscure and multi layered texts as these works do not have any preconceived meaning. Meaning to such texts differ from reader to reader and comes to life only when it is read.

Thus one has to be aware of the kind of reading strategies to be applied to a particular book before getting onto the task of actually reading it. It will not only help in a better appreciation of a work of art but will also, make reading an enjoyable experience.

PS: To avoid making this hub lengthier, i have written another hub on Reading Strategies. Read here. 


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    • SPK5367 profile image


      8 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      I, too, thought this was very interesting. I'm not familiar with these two ideas about texts. One question, though. I always believed (and taught) that readers "interact" with a text. They bring their own understandings, experiences, prejudices and preferences to the text and the combination of the author's work and the reader's work creates meaning in the story. I have applied that thought to just about any novel - classic or modern. In your understanding, would that idea be too simple...How does that concept fit with a "readerly" text?

      Thanks - I love to read about reading!

    • EducationUSA profile image


      8 years ago

      Love this idea of the creative reader! I am so in love with reading, and I have found that it can become challenging to creatively read while studying. I will have to keep this in mind for the summer. Great concept! Thank you!

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 

      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      I will admit that I opened this article because I love the owl reading clip art. It is one of my favorites and adorns the wall over my classroom library. Your content surprised me, as I expected the techniques that we employ as teachers to boost students ability to read. Your discussion here was much deeper. I never looked at reading from the perspective of "readerly" and "writerly," but I see that I have approached different texts using both. Thank you for this insight. Voted up and sharing.

    • profile image 

      8 years ago

      yuh! i like ur post...

      huh.... :)

    • profile image

      Niaz Betaab 

      9 years ago

      It was a real eye opener. it is a fully supportive column. As I am inclined to the method, mentioned above, shows that "We must set our mind to accept the book and to read it by thinking and making genres in our mind while reading it." I love reading novels when it is a rainy weather and on footpaths where people are passing rushingly.

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      10 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      Opened my eyes a little reading this hub, I hadn't really thought about there being different kinds of reading, but of course you are right. You should be able to differentiate and it makes total sense that you do. Nice Hub.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      10 years ago from United States

      I think dohn summed it up very well. This was very interesting, and I think you are very right.

    • tinarathore84 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from India

      @Shamel: Thanks for your comment Shamel. I wanted to include that point as well, the fact that poetry reading is an absolutely different reading experience. Poetry can be best enjoyed when read aloud. a very different reading strategy of course. thanks for bringing that point. I value your feedback. Thanks a lot.

      @dohn121: your comment reminds me of a suggestion i was once given regarding creative writing/reading in contrast to any other. Many people tend to mistake their passion for creative writing for a flair in journalism. The idea that an event can be related in as many ways is meant to be disliked (as you say u do) because that takes away credibility from the report. It is not a story after all, it is a report of an event that took place, and hence should be free from any interpretations, what so ever.

      when the concept of interpretation comes to reading, and that too reading the Writerly texts, it takes a different meaning. sometimes people deliberately put interpretations to a text taking it far off the mark.

      thanks for your valuable feedback.

    • dohn121 profile image


      10 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      One of the things that I like (and in some cases, dislike) is that 50 people can witness a car accident and all 50 will somehow have a different story to tell...The very same thing applies to reading. This was a certainly a great idea for a hub. Thank you, as I hope many hubbers and readers alike will read this and take notice.

    • shamelabboush profile image


      10 years ago

      This is very true! I read poetry in a different way from novels or stories. Nice hub tina

    • tinarathore84 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from India

      @creativeone59: thanks for the comment. It is a pleasure to have people appreciate one's work.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      10 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      That you for you creative reading hub I truly enjoyed it. thanks for sharing it. creativeone59


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