This article offers a revised version of transactional reading theory to explain how students classified as basic writers tend to employ counterproductive reading and thinking processes that inhibit them from full participation in academic life. Louise Rosenblatt proposes that readers have two main positions or purposes in reading—the efferent stance, where readers focus on the information in a text, and the aesthetic stance, where readers focus on the experience they have with a text. This article describes a third, deferent stance of reading that many basic writers adopt when they defer their interpretations of texts to other readers or defer to the counter-productive emotions they experience during the process of reading difficult texts. Building on this theoretical frame, the article describes an instructional strategy employing a series of prompts that invite students to examine their own thinking as they read difficult texts and to focus more on what they don’t understand than on what they do. The article concludes with reconstructions of classroom scenarios and a body of textual evidence showing how a carefully sequenced and controlled procedure for having basic writing students interrogate texts and themselves as readers can lead those students to become more engaged, authentic, and productive readers, writers, and participants in the academic community of a college classroom.