Reception theory: How to use it in the classroom?


Developing children’s reading skills as they enter primary school often involves meeting children at different levels, with different backgrounds, experiences and levels of confidence, and finding the theories of reading that can open a child to the wonders of reading.

Reception theory: definition

An understanding of text and meaning based on reception theory can promote a love of reading. Therefore, teachers should emphasize the aesthetic position. In practical terms, this could mean that learners are not required to answer reading comprehension questions after a reading activity.

Since there are as many interpretations of a text as there are readers, teachers should be more receptive to the different responses of their students. Rather than focusing on right or wrong answers, it is useful to help students explore the reasons for their interpretation of a text or the horizon of expectation.

The function of reception theory


In her article published in the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, Dr Lexie Scherer, Lecturer in Childhood Studies at the University of Portsmouth in the UK, explores the function of reception theory in engaging pupils from 6 to 7 years old to learn to read at school, integrating their own worlds and experiences into learning.

Indeed, reception theory is a pretty old idea.. from Louise Rosenblatt in the late 1930s,” Dr. Scherer tells Teacher. The idea is that there are two types of reading. There is efferent reading, which involves answering questions in a very direct way, and aesthetic reading, which is deeper.. because it asks children to bring their own context and read with their emotions.

Giving an example of both types of reading, Dr. Scherer explains that efferent reading can involve questions such as, “What color was the boy’s sweater?” while aesthetic reading may involve questions such as “how did you feel?” and “Where would you place yourself in this story?”

What Rosenblatt suggests is that we usually focus on efferent reading in school,” says Dr Scherer, citing examples in the UK context, such as spelling and grammar at the first (nursery) level. , as well as phonetics.


Foster a deeper engagement with literature

We know that being able to identify with and empathize with people, places or things in literature can boost young people’s engagement in learning to read. Reception theory allows readers to relate to literature on a more personal level, valuing the reader as ‘everything’.

 If we come back to Louise Rosenblatt’s theory, she asserts that the text is not inert, that we dialogue with it and that it only comes to life when we open the pages and read. So we always bring our own context, whether it’s our gender, ethnicity, age, or even where we live,” says Dr. Scherer, adding that this holistic recognition of the child can , in turn, influence the development of literacy skills.

It allows children to integrate their context, to access more powerful learning and to reinforce their self-esteem. So if someone says your opinions, your feelings, your experiences are valuable, and if you feel like you’re doing something right, you’ll do it better.

Dr. Scherer explains that reception theory can also be a powerful tool for developing critical reading skills, encouraging children to connect their own experiences and feelings with the story. Thus, even if they have not been confronted with a specific context, it is important that they have the opportunity to be asked:

  • Have you ever felt such a sense of wonder?
  • When did you feel like this?

How to use reception theory in the classroom?

Thinking about how to apply this theory in an elementary classroom, Dr. Scherer suggests a number of activities and approaches teachers can take to using reception theory to help students develop their skills.

Teach students what a good reader is

Indeed, explaining to students the difference between efferent reading and aesthetic reading can help them develop their skills. Teaching this to children so they know what is being asked of them is really powerful. And this is linked to a larger learning assessment framework , where you share learning outcomes with them.

Set up literacy circles

It’s about reading and simply taking the time to appreciate a text, and saying:

  • What did you think ?
  • How did you feel?
  • Which characters did you identify with?
  • How did you feel about that?

So no reading purely for evaluation, or not purely to work on the children’s levels.

Visual Literacy

It’s about how we teach children to look at pictures. You may have an interesting image and ask open-ended questions to kick off a project or theme.

speak to write

It’s about getting kids to start talking about a picture, which can prompt them to write a story or a report, depending on the genre.

Child-initiated activities

You can ask students to bring their own picture of home or whatever, as something that interests them, and then they can talk about how they feel. They can then talk about how they feel. And that could serve as a basis for writing or further reading.

We think there are a lot of possibilities in the field of reading-response, if you can devote the time to it,” says Dr. Scherer. We think they would naturally appreciate that kind of approach because it focuses on their interests, and it’s something they like to do, they like to talk about what they’re good at.


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