The Reader, the Text, the Interpretation: Using Reader Response to Develop Critical Literacy Skills

The Reader, the Text, the Interpretation: Using Reader Response to Develop Critical Literacy Skills

Christina Janise McIntyre (Midwestern State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8082-9.ch002
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No time in history has it been more challenging, and perhaps more important, for people to be able to intelligently process the vast amounts of information available. In response, there has been a resurgence on the emphasis of educating students in the public schools not only to be literate in the sense of decoding words and phrases but also to be able to evaluate the validity, the worth, and the credibility of a text which is the basis of critical literacy instruction. Critical analysis of texts requires that the reader possess a complex set of skills, and with that consideration in mind, readers' responses during their transactions with a text can help guide teachers to facilitate a natural process for students to evaluate the worth and credibility of information.
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The foundation of English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) instruction is built upon the importance of interacting meaningfully with and thinking deeply about texts. Textual interpretation has been a part of the literary experience since ancient times yet it did not formalize into a theory-based discipline until much later. Prior to the 20th century, biographical criticism was the primary lens for textual analysis, as those who sought to understand a text focused on the relationship of the author’s life to his or her work. Although not formalized into theory until as late as the 1950s, biographical criticism’s main concern was intentionality, the author’s own opinions about the work. For most pre-20th century approaches, the author's intentions were the sole guiding factor and an important determiner of the “correct” interpretation of texts (Lodge & Wood, 2013). An author’s purpose and the meaning he or she wished to convey was considered to be largely influenced by the author’s experiences and the context in which the he or she was composing. Biographical experiences were given primary emphasis in text analysis; consequently, the text itself was almost secondary and the reader’s thoughts, experiences, context, and a reader’s reactions, were given little or no attention (Lodge & Wood, 2013; Searle, 2004; Wellek, 1992).

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