Directing Your Child to Discover the Theme in Literature (page 2)
Determining a book's theme – an idea or message about life, society, or human nature – isn't usually easy. In fact, it is often the most difficult literary element that middle schoolers have to identify. But with the right questions, you can help tackle it.
What You Need to Know
Now that your child is in middle school, language arts assignments will focus on much more than simply what happened in a work of literature, but on identifying the theme that comes across through those events. Even if it is simply stated – love is blind, good vs. evil – uncovering it may take time.
You child should be able to identify plot, or “on the surface” narrative pretty easily, but discovering theme requires closer examination of “under the surface” narrative, shown through subtext, subtle details, and unspoken events that reveal an author's ideas about the world.
How You Can Help
These types of questions may help direct your child to possible themes during and after reading:
- Needs and desires: What are character's inner struggles, needs and desires in the beginning, middle and end? How do characters change throughout?
- Conflict: What seems to be the central conflict driving the plot? Are there conflicts between one character and another, society, or self? Who are the protagonist's friends and enemies?
- Motifs: What visual cues and recurring symbols do you notice as you read, and what do they suggest or represent?
- Subtext: Examine dialogue and action between characters – does anyone say one thing while meaning another, or do things he doesn't want to?
- Titles: Does the book's title, or the chapter titles, give you clues about the author's message?
- Personal Experience: How can you use your own experiences to relate to the protagonist's journey? Do you agree with what he says and does? What would you do differently in his position?
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