March 21, 1997
'Reader Response' Karolide's 7th Book
By Robin Droegemueller
UW-RF News Bureau
English students at one elementary school study the story of "The Three Little Pigs" from the wolf's point of view, and are assigned to investigate its events. A class of high school students, after reading the novel, "To Kill A Mockingbird," appeal the story's trial verdict to a higher court: students compile evidence and three student judges review the case.
Those examples illustrate a technique of applying the transactional theory of reading literature, termed "reader response," a method promoted by UW-River Falls Professor Nicholas Karolides.
Reader response is aimed at involving students directly in their learning to advance understanding of literary texts and to help students learn to enjoy reading. Students are encouraged to participate in the learning process, using their own life experiences to interpret meaning in literary works.
Techniques for teaching reader response are contained in Karolides' recently published book: "Reader Response in Elementary Classrooms: Quest and Discovery," It marks his seventh published book. The topics of other books have varied widely: from censorship to physical impairments to fitness.
An English professor and associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, Karolides also is a distinguished educator, in addition to his literarcy achievements. In 1994, he received the Regents Teaching Excellence Award, the University of Wisconsin System's highest honor for teaching effectiveness. Karolides was nominated by UW-RF colleagues and former students and was singled out for this award from among 14,000 professors in the 26-campus UW System.
Reader response is a theory of reading from which the teaching techniques emerge. It applies to fiction as well as nonfiction and has two operating factors: text and reader.
"Some theories generally exclude the reader," remarked Karolides. To interpret meaning, these theories may concentrate on the author, analyzing the text in terms of the author's life and times, or analyze the words and structure of the text.
Under reader response, the readers play an integral part in bringing meaning to the text, thier thoughts, reactions and ideas included in analyzing and learning. The reader cannot be separated from the text.
Karolides said the purpose of his book is to change the way instructors teach and use literature in the classroom. There are different and more effective ways to engage students in their learning, Karolides said. As examples, teachers might use live dramatizations and role-playing exercises or authentic writing activities to bring meaning to texts.
The book contains a series of articles written by teachers from around the country, including one by UW-RF elementary education Professor Lee Karnowski.. The focus is on teaching methods and techniques. Articles were chosen to offer unique teaching techniques illustrating how reader response can be applied in the classroom.
The articles are grouped according to related topics, discussing different areas related to reader response. The first two chapters, one of which is written by Karolides, discuss the theoretical aspect of reader response. Subsequent chapters include classroom case studies, cross-discipline teaching, and professional development.
This is Karolides' second book on the subject of reader response; the first, published three years ago, takes a different orientation. It is directed toward secondary school teaching since that is where the concept of reader response originated. Reader response teaching techniques are now expanding to the elementary level.
Karolides already is at work on his next book, exploring political censorship, which he hopes will be published by the end of this year. The book is part of a four volume-set on the subjects of religious, erotic, political, and social censorship.