Mortimer Adler teaches that all reading is active reading. That is, he says there is no such thing as passive reading. He then explains that active reading is like being a catcher in a baseball game.
I like the analogy, but I prefer using a wide receiver in the NFL as a better example. Wide receivers don’t just catch passes from their quarterbacks. Instead, they have to:
- Know the play (typically designed by the coaches)
- Set up properly (be in the right position before the play is snapped)
- Run the route to perfection
- Deal with defenders (major distractions, especially when there is more than one)
- Then catch the pass from the quarterback
- Run the ball if possible
- Be prepared to be pulverized by a defender who could play the villain role in any Marvel Comics movie without makeup
- Occasionally know when to improvise with the above is not going according to plan
In short, catching a pass is not easy. It is if you’re tossing the ball back and forth with a friend in the backyard. That would be akin to passive reading if there was such a thing.
Incidentally, did you notice the active reading subtilities above regarding the cast of characters?
- The Coaches – they are the mentors, bosses, or friends who recommend books
- The Quarterback – the author
- The Defenders – they are the distractors keeping you from reading
- The Receiver – the reader with the skills and mindset to read effectively
Of the roles above, I’m most focused on the defenders, or the distractions which keep me from reading actively and effectively. How about you?
Questions to Ponder
- What does being an active reader mean to you?
- How do you actively read a book? Does it help with retention?
- Does active reading apply to fiction?