A distributed perspective on reading: implications for education

Sarah Bro Trasmundi*, Lydia Kokkola, Theresa Schilhab, Anne Mangen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The aim of this paper is to argue for an interdisciplinary research agenda to the study of reading. We discuss the methodological and educational/practical challenges and opportunities that an embodied cognitive and distributed language perspective entails for literacy and education research. Although an increasing body of research pivots on the embodiment of reading, reading still tends to be theorised as a sequence of internal processes used to interpret texts. A distributed perspective replaces this code view with an embodied and multi-scalar description of the activity. This ‘embodied turn’ generates valuable results that involve not only the whole body (as a multi-sensory organ), but a historical, skilled body that affects the reading ecology. Consequently, an embodied and distributed perspective is not only a matter of drawing on multiple sensory modalities in the here-and-now that conglomerate in the human sensorium, it also highlights the interconnected habits that enable readers to enact cultural practices based on writing systems. Skilled linguistic action allows readers to construe symbolizations, re-evoking parts of their individual life experience. Embodiment thus involves a perspective that links multiple timescales, thereby moving beyond local coordination of body and artefact. While the sensorial richness of our body is a prerequisite for engaging with a text, the reading activity becomes even more complex than interconnecting the many bodily modalities, when we think of the body in terms of lived experience. Building on this multi-scalar view, the paper seeks to demonstrate the integrative potential of a distributed approach to reading as well as some initial educational implications of such a distributed perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101367
JournalLanguage Sciences
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Distributed reading
  • Education
  • Embodied cognition


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