top of page

What ALL Readers MUST Know About Uncovering THEME

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

When readers know that THEME is a universal message about life and/or people, uncovering this within a text becomes a little easier and more understandable.

Teaching THEME

Before uncovering the theme of a text becomes an easier and more understandable task, readers must have had a variety of opportunities to study, dig in and think deeply about characters to discover how and why they change within a story.

The theme of a text is all about what message the reader can glean from a story and apply it to their own life. Readers must understand the characters. I don't just mean know what the character does in the story and how they look and act. Those are all literal understandings.

Shared Literacy Learning Chart for Crossing Bok Chitto by Tim Tingle

While literal understanding is important, readers must be able to connect with characters on a deeper level.

This brings me to...readers need to find books they are genuinely interested in and with characters to which they can connect.

You know that feeling when you finish reading a book and you sit there wondering what that character is doing right now? that just me?

I admit it!

I wonder about characters from books that I read all the time.


It is what it is!

That feeling is inside me because I connected with the character and used that to create a deeper understanding of the character.

When readers are uncovering the theme of a text, they need to have a deep understanding of the character. The characters in a story drive the plotline. Through the plot events, readers can uncover the theme.

Questions Readers Should Ask About THEME

  1. What did the author really want me to understand?

  2. What do I think mattered most to the author?

  3. What is the deeper meaning of the text?

  4. Did the author use any symbols throughout the text?

  5. What do I really understand about the character?

  6. What mattered most to me about this text?

Connections to Text and THEME Interpretations

Readers must also understand that the path taken to uncover themes can have many different interpretations.

Readers bring different experiences and background knowledge to a text. That is what's great about making connections. Readers make their own connections based on their own experiences.

So, because readers bring unique knowledge and experiences to the text, readers can interpret a text differently. Although readers' interpretations may be universal in thought, there is always a unique way of thinking about a text. This is where readers must provide text evidence to support their thinking.

Uncovering theme is ambiguous because there is no right or wrong answer--as long as readers can back up their thinking with evidence from the text.

Teaching readers to uncover THEME is a win-win for any classroom at any level because it leads to rich, passionate and spirited classroom discussions where your readers get authentic opportunities to articulate their independent thinking about reading.

Until next time...

The student think sheets pictured above along with a minilesson for using these resources for teaching theme can be found in my Literacy Treasures Shop. Just click below to check it out.



bottom of page