Constructive Reading Theory

Reading, originally uploaded by c8mills.

If you want to kill all desire to read, become an English major. I did not read a book for pleasure for at least five years after graduating. Then I discovered Alias Grace and Memoirs of a Geisha and was once again swept away into the beauty of other worlds.

One of the most important things I learned while I was in college was about the way we create these other worlds in our heads. Once you reach reading fluency, your mind no longer sees individual words, instead it makes pictures of what is happening in the story. Almost like a movie theater in your head. An author is a guide, steering the developments, but you are the one who adds all the nuance and emotion.

For example, if the author writes, “The young girl, dressed in red, marched up the stairs.” Your mind has thousands of variations to fill in. Is she 2 or 15? Outside or in? Is the dress fancy or tattered? It’s an amazing process because you don’t stop to think it out. It’s an automatic response based on previous experiences and emotions. And that was just a simple sentence, imagine how deeply you go in a novel full of complex characters and situations.

The premise of Constructive Reading Theory is that you a working in concert with the author to make this world seem real to you. They put together the framework and lead you through, but it is your job to fill the world with what is important to you. And the world you create will be completely unique, no matter how good an author is at details, they do not have your experiences. No one will have the exact same emotional responses to a story.

It’s something to think about.

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