Mindsets, inner-voice and literacy learning

When we read we cultivate an inner-voice to make meaning, comprehend and engage with the text. The mind of a proficient reader will often fire with connections when reading a text that challenges and engages. At a major climax, their inner voice will be full of excitement. They will sometimes need to pause, re-read and take notes, or sketch, and maybe even stand up, pace back and forth as the precious details fall into place.

This post is just the beginning of my exploration into the way mindset impacts upon literacy learning and metacognition, starting with three well-known and emerging frameworks: fixed mindset, growth mindset, and benefit mindset.

If mindsets are the deeply held stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, surely they have a strong relation to the inner-voice that comes to us when reading. Perhaps by going back to the place where sense-making and action originates – in the mind – teachers will be better able to empower students to take control and develop their understanding and enjoyment of reading.

Reading through the three mindsets
Fixed Mindset

Readers with a fixed mindset often operate with a voice of fear and judgment. They tell themselves that no matter how hard they try the words they see before them will never take on new meaning. Consequently, they don’t see much point working to learn new vocabulary because it will only add to the cycle of cynicism they are experiencing.

A reader with a fixed mindset avoids their inner-voice, or actively tries to suppress it, because it is negative and full of doubt – seemingly unable to enact the comprehension strategies that fuel the inner-voice.

Growth Mindset

By contrast, readers with a growth mindset regularly make sense of what they are reading through a voice of reason. Their inner-voice asks them to have an open mind and embrace challenging texts as an opportunity to learn more about a subject of learning. On account of this, they are adept at using the information they have gained from reading to make logical predictions, ask questions to interrogate the characters and author, and use contextual clues to ‘read between the lines’, and make inferences across sentences, paragraphs, and ideas.

A reader with a growth mindset has a confident inner-voice that positively influences their ability to improve their comprehension of texts sequentially. Importantly, they don’t see partial understanding as a failure of comprehension, but rather an accomplishment in waiting. Giving them texts that might lie a little outside their zone of proximal development is, therefore, unlikely to damage their sense of self-efficacy.

Benefit Mindset

Further along the path, readers with a benefit mindset connect with what they are reading through a voice of compassion. Their inner-voice both rationalises and humanises what they are reading by regularly linking ideas and information to their own experiences and to others. As a result, they enrich the author’s meaning through empathy and derive contentment and emotional satisfaction from reading. Often these readers are deeply moved by a text, and feel like it is ‘speaking to them’, awakening realisations that were merely submerged.

A reader with a benefit mindset has a flourishing inner-voice that speaks from an awareness of the inter-connected nature of ideas, knowledge and theory. They see value in reading widely and deeply to contribute to new knowledge that benefits all. They actively attempt to figure out how reading and learning across disciplines can create value in ways not thought of before.

Considering the importance of mindsets in learning, the development of the ‘whole reader’ should surely be prioritised in literacy teaching. I am looking forward to learning strategies to bring about mindset shifts, and investigating how mindsets unfold, overlap and influence the engagement and enjoyment of reading.

3 thoughts on “Mindsets, inner-voice and literacy learning”

  1. A very interesting read on mindsets, inner voice and literacy learning. I believe my son (11 years ) has a fixed mindset. How do we help him get out of this mindset and into the other mindsets to increase his love of learning in literacy and change his inner voice.


    1. Thank you, Victoria and sorry for my delay responding. Perhaps you could start with questioning ‘why’ your son is reading? e.g. is he reading a book about a subject that he loves and aligns with his strengths or is it a set text from school that bears little relevance to him personally? Once you have found a text (doesn’t have to be a novel, it could be a comic to begin with, for instance) that speaks to him, perhaps you could read it together, delighting in it, making it come alive and celebrating its completion before you move onto the next one.


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