Putting It Together: Rhetorical Reading

Now that you have learned strategies for active and rhetorical reading, apply them in your own work. As you read, remember to do the following:

  • Consider the author’s rhetorical context;
  • Consider your rhetorical context as the reader;
  • Preview the text, and make predictions;
  • Read actively, questioning the author’s ideas and annotating the text;
  • Summarize the text after reading, and discuss it with others;
  • Use context clues to help you understand the meaning of new words;
  • Read voraciously and strategically.

Remember that academic reading and writing are an evolving conversation in which you are an active participant. Rhetorical reading helps you understand the thoughts of others and develop your own ideas, insights, and vocabulary.

Thinking about reading as a process, rather than a single activity, can be a large adjustment to make. It can feel cumbersome to review a text multiple times, with a different purpose in mind each time. It may not align to your image of reading something cover-to-cover once, putting it down, and moving on.

Decorative image.

Using the reading process is similar to acquiring any new skill. Think about when you first learned to hit a softball, or play piano, or even tie your shoes. The first few times you do it, it’s clunky, awkward, and uncomfortable. Then you experience a success (you connect with the ball! you play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!” your shoes stay on your feet!) and things start to click. Gradually, the actions required become second nature.

Though it may not feel like it at first, the reading process will also soon become second nature, and make you feel good when you see it working.

It’s important to allow yourself that time to feel uncomfortable. It’s equally important to celebrate the small successes and the large ones, as they happen. Consider the following encouragements to help you master college-level reading.

  • Find a good reading space. Make it a treat to visit this place with your reading material. Bring a drink you enjoy, find a comfortable place to sit, and make sure the lighting is just right.
  • Schedule time for reading. Try to set aside time to read every day. Even if it just starts as ten minutes on a lunch break, twenty minutes on the bus, and fifteen minutes before bed at night, that’s suddenly forty-five minutes that day you’ve spent reading. You can even turn this into a little game with yourself and use a calendar or an app to track your reading.
  • Reward your milestones. Allow yourself a treat when you stick to your daily reading time goals, when you finish a complex reading, or you turn in an assignment that reflects your reading comprehension. Plan out the rewards ahead of time, so you know what you’re working towards!