Reader Response in Elementary Classrooms: Quest and Discovery

Reader Response in Elementary Classrooms: Quest and Discovery

Reader Response in Elementary Classrooms: Quest and Discovery

Reader Response in Elementary Classrooms: Quest and Discovery

Synopsis

Reading is a quest. Likened to an adventure -- both metaphoric and real -- the quest is a journey of discovery. The reader's search encompasses the sensations of the experience itself, accompanying emotions, sense and meaning engendered by the experience, and understandings of the self, others, and the world around. Out of curiosity, readers also search for an extensive array of information. The journey can be envisioned and contemplated again and again after the reading act itself is completed. In a meaningful way, the reader's quest and its discoveries are life enduring and life fulfilling.

The purpose of this volume is two-fold:

• to establish and explore the essential features of reader response theory and its rendering of the reading process, and

• to acknowledge a philosophy of teaching and to illustrate teaching strategies to evoke and enhance readers' responses. Understanding the ways in which the reader affects the reading and how the reading happens will illuminate classroom pedagogy.

This text establishes and explores the essential features of reader response theory and its rendering of the reading process. The essays acknowledge a philosophy of teaching and illustrate a spectrum of teaching strategies to evoke and enhance readers' responses, including whole and small-group discussion; story drama; readers' theatre; journal writing; scripts, letters, stories, and other writings; and "body punctuation." A case study format is used to illustrate these strategies in action in real classrooms.

Excerpt

Reading is a quest. Likened to an adventure, an experience -- both metaphoric and real -- the quest is a journey of discovery. The reader's search encompasses the sensations of the experience itself, accompanying emotions, sense, and meaning engendered by the experience, and understandings of the self, others, and the world around. Out of curiosity, readers also search for an extensive array of information. The journey can be envisioned and contemplated again and again after the reading act itself is completed. In a meaningful way, the reader's quest and its discoveries is life-enduring and life-fulfilling.

These ideas doubtless have a ring of familiarity. They are, however, qualified by a less recognized tenet that avows the central role of the reader in initiating the quest and experiencing the text. The transactional theory of literature -- generally termed the reader-response approach -- has recast the role of the reader from that of subordinated spectator to that of prominence as an equal partner to the text.

The recognition of the place of reader-response theory and practices in elementary classrooms blossoms in the midst of an explosion of attention to two other reconceptions of the elementary school curriculum: literature-based teaching and the integrated language approach. Indeed, the concepts and practices of these three are well integrated. Literature-based teaching, to be fully differentiated from basal-based teaching, involves not merely substituting literary texts for basal readers but also incorporating reader-response approaches. (The issues of basal readers versus literature-based instruction are effectively documented, particularly in chapters 2, 15, and 17.) An integrated curriculum likewise advocates authentic texts rather than basals, as well as strategies that integrate language and reading-process instruction across the curriculum. (These are illustrated directly and indirectly in the chapters of this book.)

The purpose of this volume is twofold: (a) to establish and explore the essential features of this theory and its rendering of the reading process, and (b) to acknowledge a philosophy of teaching and to illustrate teaching strategies to evoke and enhance readers' responses. Understanding the ways in which the reader affects the reading and how the reading happens will illuminate classroom pedagogy.

My discussions with students, undergraduate and graduate, and teachers reveal that there is generally a veneer of comprehension about . . .

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