Suggesting that the common classroom practice of literature instruction is antitheoretical and counterproductive, this paper elaborates theories of reading processes, discusses children’s responses to literature, and proposes suggestions for classroom use. The first section of the paper outlines what literature instruction is expected to contribute to children’s learning. The second section of the paper discusses three models of the reading act: reading as transmission, reading as transaction, and hermeneutic reading. The third and fourth sections use notions and insights from the second and third models to describe, analyze, and synthesize children’s response to literature. The final section of the paper discusses principles to facilitate children’s learning: literature instruction should encourage learners to approach a text as an experience to live through; teachers and students should assume the same role–a unique individual literary reader and experiencer; and young learners should be invited to respond to literature with their emotions, personal associations, memories, judgments, and intertextual relations. The paper concludes by suggesting instructional activities that (1) acknowledge that learners’ personal responses are valid; (2) provide learners with a wide variety of literary works; (3) create a non-threatening classroom environment; (4) demonstrate and encourage the use of multiple media for expressing messages; (5) create collaborative classroom climate; (6) meet the expectations of the examination board and help learners get through them; and (7) foster awareness of personal and interpretive-community perspectives and then expose the learners to other perspectives.
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