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Reader Response







The reading act is an event involving a particular individual and a particular text, happening at a particular time, under particular circumstances. Louise Rosenblatt (1985)

Reader response stresses the importance of the reader’s role in the construction of meaning. When readers respond to literature they weave their own ideas, feelings, and experiences together with the words, images and ideas presented in the text(s). It is through the transaction between the reader and the text that meaning is made.

The response process is the interface between reader, text and context. Reader response focuses on the importance of talk as a means of clarifying the reader’s initial ideas, and the interpretation of texts as a measured response that draws on both the world of the reader and the world of the text.

Getting Started: Use Key Critical Literacy Questions to shape response. Critical literacy helps readers think about different points of view and understand that the author’s perspective is not the only one possible.

Approaches to Response

Making Annotations and Notes



Another way for readers to enter into conversations with texts is to generate lists of things they notice, questions, and ideas during reading. Ideas can then be categorized and narrowed down, kept in a reader-writer notebook and shared with other readers.

Mapping and Diagramming

Visual maps and diagrams help readers help readers perceive thoughts in visual form. Students chart out and identify the relationships between different aspects of the text. For example, circle maps can be used to illustrate the relationships between different characters in a narrative text. Other diagramming strategies include chalk talk, mind maps and graffiti. 

Quick Writes

Quick writing helps focus student thinking. Students write non-stop for a specific time period without taking time to edit, censor, or revise initial reactions to the text.

Quick writes may be about a short text (poem, image, illustrated text, short story) where students offer general observations about ideas from the text that resonate with them. Quick writes can also focus on specific aspects of the text such as text conventions, use of author’s craft, and/or the big idea(s).

Teacher Linda Rief uses quickwrites to have students reflect on short texts such as poetry, quotations, and text excerpts. Quickwrites may be kept in a reader-writer notebook and used to spark a response or become the seed for a written production.


In reading journals students record reaction or respond to open-ended prompts as they read a text.

Double entry journals have ideas or text excerpts in one column and reflections or explans in the other. They encourage readers to reflect on select parts of the text. 

Reading journals and double entry journals can be shared between students to support further discussions and may provide opportunities for feedback.

Art Work

Visual journals allow students to represent their thinking though different media (text, illustrations, collage, painting). Students might create a visual journal entry that focuses on a specific aspect of the text that resonates with them.


Additional Resources: 

Robert E. Probst explains reader response theory in the article Transactional Theory in the Reading of Literature.

The University of Alterta offers information on using response journals in Enhancing Engagement in Reading: Response Journals in Secondary English Classrooms.

Jeffrey Wilhelm discusses creative ways to use drama to respond to literature in his article entitled  Not for Wimps! Using Drama to Enrich Reading of YA Literature.

The Two Writing Teachers blog offers information on ways to introduce reading and response journals.

Author and teacher Penny Kittle gives examples of alternate ways to respond to literature from her own practice.

Read Write Think offers information on using annotations to make connections durin reading.

I’ll Have Mine Annotated Please: Helping Students Make Connections with Texts by Matthew D. Brown offers information on ways to introduce the process to students.

The Journal Fodder Junkies blog offers a place to start exploring the potential of visual journals.

Poetry in Voice offers a searchable database of poems and pedagogical materials.


Rosenblatt, L. M. (1985). Viewpoints: Transaction versus interaction: A terminological rescue operation. Research in the Teaching of English, 96-107.