Passive reading is effortless reading. It’s when you pick up a magazine or what we refer to as “light reading” (think beach books, “chick lit,” romance novels, etc.). You want the words to be easy, and the action to be fast and exciting or relaxed and simple. You don’t want to have to think too much. You just want to sit back, relax, and be entertained.
“Passive reading” is an expression more than anything. You are actively reading the material, but the deeper level of activity (such as looking for symbolism, or wondering what message the author is trying to convey to you) is not as intense as that of active reading. When you read passively, you may not be taking away new ideas or opinions, but you are being entertained. Passive reading is really only as good as the material you choose to read. It would be very difficult to read Plato’s Republic passively. If you even tried, you would find yourself digesting absolutely nothing.