Introduction to Interpretive Reading

You perform some level of interpretation throughout the reading process. When you interpret a text, you take in the words and understand their meaning. All readers bring their own knowledge, thoughts, and experiences to a reading, and all readers therefore interpret the same reading in different ways.

In order to interpret a reading effectively, you will start by being a critical reader. That is, you will approach a reading with a goal of understanding the author’s purpose, use of support, and possible bias. You will also strive to be an active reader—one who previews a text, makes predictions about its content, looks for connections among the writer’s ideas, and is willing to question and challenge the points being made in the text.

Critical and active readers are thoroughly engaged with the material they read. They make notes, either directly on the page or in a notebook or computer file, and these notes lead to more detailed observations, or interpretations.

Interpretive reading, then, is the result of critical and active reading. It is reading that allows for reflection and insight based on all the notes and details that critical and active reading uncover. Interpretation means coming to your own conclusion about a reading after giving it careful consideration.


This video explains strategies for interpretive reading.

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The study pages include more in-depth information about interpretive reading. They also include practice readings for you to work through in order to more fully understand how to interpret texts. Read through the study pages and complete the practice activities before taking the post-test.

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