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Reading with Presence

Crafting Meaningful, Evidenced-Based Reading Responses

By Marilyn Pryle
Foreword by Thomas Newkirk

Writing and sharing reading responses helps students look more closely at texts and their own thinking, while boosting engagement and self-confidence in their own voices. Marilyn Pryle offers a framework for crafting mindful, evidence-based reading responses.

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“I don’t know.”
Is there a more frustrating answer when we ask students what they think about the texts they’re reading?  More often than not, they DO know; or at least, they have something to say but are afraid to say it.

Marilyn Pryle argues that we can help students find their voices and deeply understand texts when we invite them to write and share short reading responses.  “If you’ve read something, you must have a thought,” she explains. “The idea behind reading responses is simple: Read, and have a concrete idea about the text to bring to the discussion.  You don’t have to be ‘right.’  But you do have to have a thought from your own mind that is specific about the reading.” This kind of engagement with texts is what Marilyn calls “reading with presence.” Writing and sharing reading responses helps students look more closely at texts and their own thinking, while boosting engagement and self-confidence in their own voices.

Marilyn provides a clear framework for helping students embark on a year long journey of literary criticism and intellectual growth, filling notebooks with responses that are both personal and scholarly. Her suggested categories for reading responses allow for plenty of student choice, and the writing examples she shares throughout the book illustrate students’ deep thinking about a rich variety of texts both old and new, in a range of genres, from both whole-class and independent reading. “Reading responses put students on a road that leads to evidence-based interpretation rooted in personal experience, prior knowledge, and engagement,” Marilyn writes. “The road, perhaps, of personal growth. And isn’t that why we all teach in the first place?”

Additional Resource Information

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Part One: Reading Responses as Classroom Practice
Ch. 1: Reading, Thinking, Sharing
Ch. 2: The Parts of a Reading Response
Ch. 3: Reading Responses at Work: From Discussion to Essays, and Uses for Reading Workshop
Ch. 4: Above and Beyond: Metacognitive Investigation with the Reading Response Analysis Paper
Part Two: Reading Response Categories and Examples
Ch. 5: Basic Reading Response Categories
Ch. 6: Categories for Parsing the Plot
Ch. 7: Categories for Going Deeper with Inferences
Ch. 8: Categories for Exploring Claim and Craft
Ch. 9: Categories for Examining Structure
Ch. 10: Categories for Making Advanced Connections
Ch. 11: Categories for Applying Literary Theories
Ch. 12: Categories for Responding to Visual Texts



 “Marilyn Pryle invites students out of hiding. And as we all know, there are two basic forms of hiding when it comes to analysis of literature—summary and silence.  Pryle asks students to think, even if it is nothing more than to have an impression of a character and a reason for that impression.

Everyone has probably heard the old story of a tourist, lost in the backroads of Maine, whogoes up to a farmhouse and asks an old Mainer, “How do I get to Portland?” And the farmer replies, “You can’t get there from here.” It often seems that way with analytic writing. It is often difficult to imagine (without rigid formulas) how students can move from where they are to the longer papers they will need to write in college. This book shows a way forward, with invitations wide enough, attractive enough, and manageable enough—that students will, I believe, decide they no longer need to hide.”—from the Foreword by Thomas Newkirk

Related PD Services


  • Invite Marilyn Pryle to speak at your school, district, or conference through Heinemann Speakers.
Email if you would like to contact Marilyn Pryle directly about professional development support.