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Linux will be able to read from your Windows partition.
It is possible to open many file types in Linux.
You didn't mention this, but your title seems to imply it, running Windows programs is another matter. Assume you cannot, but this is not completely true.
If you mention the version of Windows and the filesystem you are using (FAT32 or NTFS?) and the Linux distribution you are using, people can mention specific tools you can use to read files from your Windows partition.
I am still going to stick with my original answer, "running Windows programs is another matter. Assume you cannot, but this is not completely true..
If someone wants to mention that Wine be checked out, okay. But I think telling a new Linux user who wants to be able to easily use familar Windows programs "just use Wine dude", is setting him up for disappointment.
VMWare and Win4lin both require the installation of the Windows OS, cost money, and are also not a simple answer to the question.
Depending on how much time or money someone wants to spend, any of those may be good answers for them. But I still think it best to realize that Linux and Windows are two seperate operating systems and one can assume that generally one needs Windows programs for Windows and Linux programs for Linux.