The Engaged Reader and How to Become One

The South Carolina Department of Education once referred to the engaged reader as someone who is “fully immersed physically, mentally, and emotionally” in their reading material.1 But what is an engaged reader really? Of course, we know a reader is someone who reads. In this case, a reader is someone who is reading a book, a piece of literature. But how is one engaged with the literature they are reading? And why is engagement important?

The concept is simpler than it seems. An engaged reader is self-motivated and participates actively in the process of reading.1 Let’s break that down:

An engaged reader reads because they want to, not because they are required to for school assignments or are otherwise pressured to by their parents, peers, or teachers. An engaged reader genuinely enjoys reading, whether they enjoy reading because it transports them to other worlds, they like observing characters, they appreciate language and its application to literature, or they want to simply revel in the leisure of reading a good book.

As reading is one of their hobbies, the engaged reader keeps collections or lists of books, either of books they have read or of books they wish to read in the future.1 They cherish the books they’ve finished, but, more than anything, they look forward to the books they will read. They are always on the hunt for a good book, or at least receptive to finding one. This is because, again, engaged readers like to read, and as anyone seeks out the things they like in this world, the engaged reader is drawn to books.

But self-motivation is only the first part of the definition. Active participation in the reading process is arguably more significant to the engaged reader. The engaged reader does not merely read a book, allowing the words, scenarios, and characters to filter by them like the landscape outside a car window. An engaged reader digs deeper into the text, evaluating its meaning, discovering hidden symbols, and contemplating the author’s message.

According to Mosaic of Thought, engagement occurs when readers “make text-to-text, text-to-world, and text-to-self connections.”2 They look for ways the text reflects themselves, the world around them, and other texts. This deepens the reader’s understanding of the material and opens new avenues for insight and knowledge, as well as exercising their brains! They wonder why a story plays out the way it does, what motivates the characters’ actions, the symbolic meaning behind objects or names, and other ruminations that lead them to a more profound understanding of the book they are reading.

That may sound like a lot to grasp. However, there are smaller, more concrete ways to be engaged while reading. Rereading confusing passages, looking up the definition of new words, and researching the historical context of plot events are examples of engaged reading, as the reader actively seeks out new information, instead of passively accepting their confusion or failing to look beyond the surface level.

Now that you know what an engaged reader is, you may wonder how to become one. The best way to become an engaged reader is to discover a love of reading within yourself. Remember, self- motivation is the first part of being an engaged reader. Try reading different genres, reading at different times of the day, or create a reward system to encourage yourself to read without making it a chore. Once you find your passion for reading, the rest will follow naturally. You can read HERE to learn ways to integrate reading into your everyday life.

The second part is to learn how to engage with the text, to learn how to ask questions, participate actively in the text, and immerse yourself in the process. Close reading is a great way to start doing that, as close reading is the active process through which readers interpret a text. And don’t let close reading scare you; Our Future Reads has you covered already! You can learn how to close read HERE.

The most important part is to never settle for confusion. If you don’t understand a word, wonder about the context, forget a part of the plot, or can’t understand why a character acted a certain way, look for the answer! Google is a helpful tool, as well as other readers who have experience with the book in question. Talking through a book with another person is a great way to expose yourself to different interpretations and develop a more complete understanding of the book. Keep that in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to being an engaged reader! You can do it!

  1. “Engaged Reading.”
  2. Miller, Cathy Puett. “Engaged Reading: Turning Reading into and Active Experience.” Education World.

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