What is Interactive Reading?

Sandi Johnson

Something that is interactive involves input or actions on the part of the user. Interactive reading thus requires some action or involvement on the part of the reader. In short, interactive reading encourages the reader to do more than simply read printed text. Print books with alternative endings, ebooks with hyperlinks, virtual books, websites and even blogs and wikis are examples of things that can be read interactively. In these examples, the action of the reader influences or enhances his or her experience of a text.

Websites might be read interactively.
Websites might be read interactively.

Elementary school teachers expose their students to various forms of interactive reading to teach language art skills and to facilitate reading comprehension. Teachers use a variety of tools, methods and interactive lessons to increase retention of topics and further learning. Interactive learning materials such as companion websites provide additional involvement beyond the text. Examples of such materials include online games, virtual books with interactive skill-building exercises, videos and other multimedia teaching aids.

Major newspapers like the New York Times offer interactive features on their website.
Major newspapers like the New York Times offer interactive features on their website.

School-age children are not the only ones to benefit from interactive reading. Adults have the ability to learn online from a variety of interactive media. Newspaper and magazine websites are primary examples. Through online content, publishers encourage readers to go beyond the printed text or online articles. Readers can comment, provide feedback, attend online seminars or glean resources for further study from reading and following links.

The use of interactive learning materials, and indeed the entire concept of interactive reading, is commonly associated with technology. In actuality, encouraging the physical interaction of readers with the text they read is not a new concept. Pop-up books with movable elements and additional content appeared in Victorian-era learning materials. These early forms of interactive reading sought to engage children with manipulative components to illustrate concepts and complex systems. Encyclopedias from the mid to late-1900s featured clear cellophane overlays that allowed readers to dissect anatomies system by system as they turn the pages to build each systems’ layers.

Modern technology allows for a far deeper and broader use of interactive media. Readers become an integral part of their own absorption of information with the use of multimedia tools, online content and various interactions. Publishers encourage readers to get involved with the materials printed by providing an ever-expanding menu of options for further understanding and enjoyment. Websites, blogs, user-generated wikis, online games and ebooks are just a few examples of what is available in terms of interactive learning materials and options.

Interactive reading encourages the reader to do more than simply read text.
Interactive reading encourages the reader to do more than simply read text.

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Discussion Comments


@miriam98 - I agree. I believe one of the best reading comprehension strategies is to get people involved with what they’re reading, and making choices to see what the outcomes will be.

Decisions have consequences, and I think there is no better way to reinforce that than with interactive reading. In that sense, I think virtual fiction is better in that regard than any regular hyperlinking on the Internet, which is standard fare nowadays.

Virtual fiction allows you to see the different outcomes for the decisions you make. I actually think it’s possible to make these electronic digital books in electronic form, to be uploaded to electronic reader devices. It doesn’t have to be on the web.


@everetra - Interactive reading games are not just for kids. I think we have yet to explore the scope of interactive fiction. Really it began in the early 1980s with so-called text adventure games. These were games told in text form.

You had to enter commands which would lead in you various direction – and different destinations throughout the game.

That was the basics of interactive fiction in my opinion. I’d like to see this taken to a higher level, with full fledged novels. Of course I realize that raises the levels of complexity.

Each novel would have to be many possible novels. But with the web and virtually limitless capacity of the Internet, it can be done, at least online anyway.


There’s no doubt about it. The Internet era is tailor made for interactivity. Just think of hyperlinks, which let you bounce all of over the place.

You can have two people reading the same text, and if it has hyperlinks, no two readings will be the same. Those links can point to resources anywhere else on the Internet or even in the same page.

The result is greater involvement with the text and greater comprehension in my opinion.

Another great example is the interactive reading websites for kids, which engage them in learning things like phonics, spelling and grammar rules, by clicking on game elements. It keeps kids glued to the instruction, in a way that a regular lesson never could.

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