On Reading Kinds, Reading Stance, and The Likes

(A popular article; by one NEB)

Efferent reading is reading without assigning feelings, emotions, and experience to the text. The sole purpose is to get the information required after the reading. This is pretty much a product-oriented reading, that is, reading with the expectation of gaining a residue of information upon the completion of reading. This is why efferent reading is closely associated with the reading of academic or scientific texts both of which are information-based. To incorporate feelings, emotions, and experience into this reading would constitute a bias. What matters is what the words of the text really say, not what the reader feels the words tell.

Aesthetic reading, in contrast, is reading that employs the reader’s feelings, emotions, and experience all rendered to the text. The main purpose is to enjoy the text during the process of the reading, regardless of the accumulated information regarding the characters, plot, etc. after the reading. This is very much a process-oriented reading, where what happens during the reading is what counts the most. This kind of reading is, by definition, attached to the reading of literary works doing which the reader is free to make use of all his feelings, emotions, and experience to make sense out of the text. Multi-interpretation of one same text by different readers is therefore justifiable.

Reading stance is the position the reader takes when reading a text. He can take either the position of an efferent or aesthetic reader depending on the nature of text he reads. What is important to note at this point is the fact that one same text can cause different readers to employ different reading stances. One reader may read the text utilizing efferent reading stance, while another can read it using aesthetic reading stance. This will depend not only on the nature of the text, but also the selective attention of the reader.

To encourage our students to develop their interest in literature, we have to devise ways to introduce various literary pieces into the classroom for the students to choose from to read, thus allowing aesthetic reading to occur. This is where the idea of free voluntary reading has its place in the classroom. The students should be let to choose what they like reading best. And by providing them with a selection of reading to choose from, the teacher shows the students that their interest is accommodated. It is from this practice that we can expect our students to turn themselves into readers of literature. At least this is very much so from our side as teachers. And considering the fact that our society is not quite yet a reader society, the change can start from the classroom, where the practice of reading is given a special place.

Only later should the students be instructed efferent reading, presumably when they are at a higher level of schooling or education where they’ve had enough of reading for pleasure and now it’s time for them to talk about it.

Rosenblatt puts forward 3 purposes of reading as follows:

1. to get the information needed at the end of reading. This is especially true of efferent reading associated with comprehending technical, academic, or scientific texts. Reading this kind of text efferently, the reader focuses more on what the text says rather than what he interprets the text to be. Thus the reading is devoid of the reader’s emotional involvement whatsoever. To include it would jeopardize the expected interpretation of the text.

2. to experience the text while actually reading it moment by moment regardless of the possible accumulated information gained upon finishing the reading. This is especially true of aesthetic reading attached to enjoying literary works. Reading this kind of text, the reader involves himself emotionally in the text in an attempt to best experience it. To exclude emotion and the likes in such a reading would make the reading process dull and deprive the reader of the chance to fully engage himself in the story utilizing all his feelings and emotions.

3. a and b combined, that is, to experience the text while reading it and gain some information at the end of reading. This is so if the reader employs both efferent and aesthetic approach to his reading. One who reads a novel—and perhaps enjoys reading it—and has to report on the story after reading it may best explain this third purpose of reading.

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