Creative Reading

We all know about creative writing, but have you thought about creative reading? Probably not. Most of the reading we do is either for entertainment or to extract out meaning. When we want to be entertained, we rarely want to do “creative work” and when we have to understand something, we have analytical work to do. But creative reading? Why would we want to do that?

Poets understand creative reading and probably do it more often than they give themselves credit for. There are even types of poetry, like found poetry and blackout poetry that call for creatively reading a text and pulling out words and phrases to rearrange into new forms. It provides an interesting reason to read. But otherwise, we rarely attempt to practice creative reading.

For the most part, we happily read along to be entertained or engage in the text to create meaning and understanding, and in school, often for a quiz or test or project. The goal, of course, is to try to understand everything. However, even when we think we are doing our best, most focused reading, we zone in and out with our attention. As poet Ron Padgett explains:

“The point of all this is that the perceiving mind is constantly shifting and wavering. Our perceptual power fades in and out: we simply cannot bring a perfectly steady attention to bear on each and every word, sentence, and paragraph, page after page. Even if we could, the words themselves would not be equally engaging.”

So why not embrace the idea that our attention wavers and we miss the point? Why not at least take some moments to go completely off course for a bit of fun and creative adventure? Why not find a new way to generate interest and curiosity? In other words, why not practice creative reading! 

Here are some of Padgett's suggestions:

  • Purposely change single words... to see what happens!
  • Change all of the nouns or substitute new verbs on a page.
  • Skip lines while reading and make them work anyway.
  • Meander down the page to form your own sentences.
  • Read only a few lines on each page and fill in your own story.
  • Read a page backwards from the bottom.
  • Use a strip of paper or a stencil to cover up parts.
  • Make a story into your own Chose-Your-Own-Adventure.
  • Read only the odd or even pages...two books for the price of one!
  • And one of my own: use anagrams to shift words and names.

Here's an excerpt from Ron Padgett's book where he changes a single word in a book he was reading: "Later the girls load their car with a heavy box of provisions. Something in me clicked, and I changed provisions to visions. Immediately the book took on a different caste. These young girls were visionaries! And visionaries who kept their visions in a box!  The story became immeasurably more interesting. Anytime it lagged a bit, I searched around for another key word and changed it, too."

Such adventures in reading can lead to new thoughts, novel ideas, interesting questions and all kinds of tangents. Like found poetry we may just find all kinds of creative thinking explorations and may just inject new life into the reading process with a whole other type of reading. We know reading for entertainment and reading for understanding. Now we can also include reading for creativity!



Padgett, Ron. (1997). Creative Reading: What It Is, How to Do It, and Why.



Image by Comstock - Pixabay


creative thinking, Creativity, learning, reading, teaching

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