Exploring the Relationship Between Authorship and Reading
Attempts to integrate reading and writing in literature or composition courses have brought into focus the extent to which comprehending, like composing, is a constructive, rhetorical act. In turn, we have begun to consider some of the ways we can enhance students' understanding of what they read, making them aware that reading is a strategic process that entails reconstructing some of the choices and decisions writers make in a given situation. This renewed interest in how readers construct meaning is important in thinking about how to foster the development of critical literacy; but I want to go a step further by thinking about students as authors who have opportunities to contribute knowledge to a community of readers.
Constructivist theories of reading, which call attention to comprehension as an active process of composing meaning, can provide a useful framework for understanding how a sense of authorship can motivate and influence reading, that is, how people read in order to further their own rhetorical intentions as writers and define a position from which they might speak (cf. Bartholomae, 1985). As Spivey ( 1990) has observed, readers use what they know together with textual cues to organize meaning in a text, select information based on some relevance principle, and make connective inferences between the information they select in reading and the content they generate from prior knowledge. Writers can embellish what they read with examples and counterexamples ( Stein, 1990), thinking critically about what they read in light of their goals as writers. Thus a constructivist framework can help us understand