Reading is a pleasure for millions of people in the world, and it is, together with writing, one of the cognitive skills that has allowed human beings to begin to be able to register and understand what has happened before their own existence: the invention of writing and with it of reading means the passage from prehistory to history, and even before this there were already communicative acts at a pictorial level that could be “read”.

But reading is an activity that can be carried out in different ways and for different purposes, something that allows us to talk about a large number of types of reading . Throughout this article we’re going to talk about them.

Main types of reading

There are many different ways we can find to read and understand written material. Although we will not indicate all the existing types of reading, here are the main ones that can be done.

1. Oral reading

We know as oral or vocal reading that type of reading in which the subject exteriorizes through the voice what is read . In other words, oral reading is that which we do when we read aloud.

It is often used when reading something to another person or when we intend to use the sound as a memory track or as a method to be able to concentrate on the content of the reading even under less than optimal conditions.

2. Subvocal or silent reading

A silent or subvocal reading is one that is carried out silently and in an internalised manner. We do not produce any sound, although we reproduce it mentally .

It is a type of reading that requires the ability to concentrate and that requires a certain mastery of the ability to read fluently, since one goes directly to interpreting the visual material without translating it externally into sound (passing it directly to the internal level).

3. Quick reading

The fast or superficial reading is characterized by being carried out in a fast way but without stopping or deepening in what is read . It allows us to get an idea of what we are reading, the subject and perhaps the basic structure, but in a general way and without taking into account deeper or more complex aspects.

4. Sequential reading

A reading that is carried out without haste and taking into account the whole text, without skipping anything but without stopping to reflect in depth on any of its sections.

5. Intensive reading

Another type of reading is the intensive one, which implies an extensive and conscientious reading of the whole text and in which every detail has been thoroughly reviewed .

6. Involuntary or unconscious reading

Involuntary reading, as the term tells us, is that which is produced unconsciously and without the will of the subject to read the content.

This reading implies a certain capacity for reading comprehension, since requires being able to process the written message before we even realize we are reading . This is what happens when we read something by accident. An example of this can be found in almost any advertising product, as it is something that is used in marketing with outgoing stimuli and little writing.

7. Mechanical reading

We call mechanical reading that which is carried out automatically but voluntarily, transforming written symbols and messages into sounds. We go from graphemes to phonemes. However, it is not necessary that there is even an understanding of the message . It would be the first of the types of reading that are learned, since it is the necessary previous step to be able to understand what is read.

8. Comprehensive or receptive reading

Comprehensive reading is characterized by the fact that the material read is understood by the reader, so that the act of reading involves the integration of knowledge and a valid interpretation of the material read. Understanding implies being able to draw conclusions from the material extracted from the text after grouping the material read and extracting the main ideas from the text. It also requires having enough mechanical reading ability to exist.

9. Selective reading

Similar to fast reading, selective reading is characterized by the fact that the reader does not analyze the whole text, but makes a skipping reading based on the most relevant parts such as the concepts considered key, the titles or elements that the reader is looking for directly.

10. Reflective Reading

Reflective reading is characterized by the fact that through the reading of the text the person who reads it is able not only to draw conclusions and assess the suitability of the text, but that it can also allow him/her to think and reflect on his/her own knowledge , deficiencies and strengths beyond what can be extracted and assessed from the material itself.

11. Literal reading

This type of reading is characterized by the fact that the information extracted from the text is processed without making any kind of inference, so that only what the written words directly mean is taken into account. The possible existence of double meanings or different interpretations is not valued beyond what the message explicitly means.

12. Inferential Reading

In contrast to the literal reading, in the inferential reading, the material that is implicit in the text is assumed, even if it does not appear directly in the text.

The ideas and meanings obtained not only from the direct text but also from the context in which the material is produced, the possible intentions of the writers or the knowledge that the reader has about it are used. It allows to establish conclusions that are not found in the text itself , as well as to interpret double meanings and other meanings of the content.

13. Critical reading

Critical reading implies an inferential reading of the written material to which in turn an evaluative nuance is added by the reader : it is not only a matter of reading but of analysing the text. In addition to interpreting written information, one evaluates and judges not only what is written but also what can be extracted from it, and especially whether what is read is valid and reliable according to the reader’s point of view and criteria.

14. Informative reading

We consider informative reading to be that which has as its main objective the obtaining and/or transmission of knowledge, the purpose of the reading act being to incorporate the data obtainable from the material. It is not intended to be entertaining or enjoyable, although it may be secondary.

15. Recreational Reading

Recreational reading is mainly characterized by the fact that is carried out with the sole purpose of entertainment and enjoyment , without the intention of receiving real information or improving knowledge (although this may be achieved, it will not be the real purpose of the act of reading but a secondary benefit).

16. Scientific Reading

We can call scientific reading to that which pretends to be of interest and application on a scientific level, which implies a comprehensive and critical reading in addition to the realization of an extensive search for information that can be verified . It also aims to obtain knowledge, generally of a specific subject identified previously. It may include the reading and interpretation of statistical data and formulas from different scientific disciplines.

17. Phonetic Reading

Phonetic reading is characterized by the fact that it is not so much based on the search for a meaning to the content and written material, but it is more based on working on the sound, articulation and phonetics with which words are read.

18. Music reading

Music reading is a type of reading that differs from the rest in the fact that in its case the symbolism that is interpreted does not focus on searching for meaning at the concept level, but mainly provides information about a sound, in addition to its rhythm and the melody in which it must be read. It is the type of reading by which the musicians interpret the scores .

19. Braille reading

Braille reading is a type of reading that has the peculiarity that it is not based on the interpretation of symbols perceived through vision, but the symbolism used to read is perceived through touch. This system is the main reading mechanism that the blind population has .

20. Pictographic reading

A pictographic reading is that reading activity in which the subject does not interpret graphemes in the form of letters, but reads from images and pictorial symbols that represent concrete ideas. In fact, the first forms of written communication were of the pictographic type, since examples of it could be found practically from prehistoric times.

Bibliographic references:

  • Weaver, C. (1994). Reading process and practice: from socio-psycholinguistics to whole language. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann.