Kay E. Vandergrift

Children's Literature Page

Young Adult Literature Page

Reader response criticism

Make literature available to all young people and encourage them to find that which is meaningful to them. This means providing a wide range of resources (topics and media) and opportunities for reading as well as continuing to read aloud to older children.

Provide materials that:

  1. Encourage active, participatory, reflective learning
  2. Integrate the cognitive and the affective
  3. Are problem-posing
  4. Are about something students know and care about
  5. Provide multiple perspectives
  6. Encourage dialogue, cooperative learning, the construction and negotiation of meaning, a spirit of inquiry.

Acknowledge the uniqueness of each reader and of each reading in the meaning-making process.

Invite responses, both emotional and intellectual.

Allow time for readers to reflect on what they bring to their reading and acknowledge and examine the responses evoked. Keeping a log or a journal helps to give shape to ideas and to articulate the meanings brought to and taken from a literary text.

Ask questions that guide the reading-thinking process. Avoid diversionary questions. NOT: What would you do? or Have you been in a similar situation? INSTEAD: What did you already know? Expect? What do you now know? What do you still want to know?

Encourage discussion. Begin with the text but recognize that comments will also refer to the self and to the world outside the text.

What does the text say? (On the lines)
What does it mean? (Between the lines)
What does it matter? (Beyond the Lines)

Find points of contact (connections) among readers. Encourage young people to trust their own responses while respecting different responses from others.

Let discussion build and change. Listen TO what young people say rather than FOR what you expect them to say.

Put the text and the discussion of it in context. Relate to other texts, experiences, discussions, etc. Encourage readers to match their own created meanings against both the text and knowledge outside the text.

Find ways to go beyond this text and this discussion--further research, reading, writing, other creative activities.

Respect the young person's right to privacy. Not all literary experiences should or must be shared.

Reflect upon your own role as an adult intermediary in the transactions between young people and literary texts.


Created September 20, 1995 and is continuously revised
SCILS, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey