Reading, even when silent and individual, is a social phenomenon and has often been studied as such. Complementary to this view, research has begun to explore how reading is embodied beyond simply being ‘wired’ in the brain. This article brings the social and embodied perspectives together in a very literal sense. Reporting a qualitative study of reading practices across student focus groups from six European countries, it identifies an underexplored factor in reading behaviour and experience. This factor is the sheer physical presence, and concurrent activity, of other people in the environment where one engages in individual silent reading. The primary goal of the study was to explore the role and possible associations of a number of variables (text type, purpose, device) in selecting generic (e.g. indoors vs outdoors) as well as specific (e.g. home vs library) reading environments. Across all six samples included in the study, participants spontaneously attested to varied, and partly surprising, forms of sensitivity to company and social space in their daily efforts to align body with mind for reading. The article reports these emergent trends and discusses their potential implications for research and practice.
- Reading environment
- Social space