What the Author is Trying to Tell You/Themes/Purpose


 Starting at Level K, we interpret and reflect on our reading.  How?

Interpreting a story. . .  This is inferring!  Readers go beyond the literal meaning of a text to gain a deeper understanding by using prior knowledge to grasp the meaning of what is implied by the author.  Advanced students will connect with many details within the story.

We are looking for:

  • An insightful understanding of important text implications using important supporting details for both fiction and nonfiction.
  • What the character in the story learned.  State what the character learned, and use your prior knowledge to state the big idea, or the importance in learning this.

Reflecting on a story. . .   Readers use their prior knowledge to help them determine the importance of, reflect on, and evaluate what they read.  Making judgments is an important skill in critical reading and thinking, as is justifying one’s response.   What do you think is the most important message or event?  What is the author trying to tell you?  Advanced students  understand that a chain of events leads to the resolution or conclusion.  They can identify the initial or at least an earlier event in the story as the most important event.  When identifying the most important message, they are able to synthesize information from the text and use prior knowledge to relay a significant message, supported by reasons.

We are looking for:

  • The most significant event in the story and why, using higher-level thinking.
  • The student, when describing characters, should talk about the characters' traits. The author may not come out and say the traits each character possesses; the student must infer the traits.
  • The most significant message or information in the story, and give a reason for the opinion that reflects higher-level thinking.

We are looking for "THE MEaning" ~ the theme is the message you find in the story and can apply to your own life.  It is much different than a summary:

Great for the reading notebook! I love the idea of listing common themes, so that kids can choose one that fits best.

Themes ~  The author might want to teach us. . .

  • The concept of "otherness" ~ boy vs. girl, for example, or to teach us about people who are very different from us, but whose basic needs are the same
  • Importance of friendship
  • Importance of family
  • How prejudice/bullying is wrong
  • How hard work brings rewards
  • Honesty is the best policy
  • Believe in yourself and follow your dreams
  • How to overcome life's struggles ~ dealing with grief and sadness

Deep Questions to Think About Related to Theme:

  • Does the author seem to be trying to leave the reader with an increased understanding of some aspect of life?
  • Do the ideas of kindness, helping, and making the world a better place emerge in this book?  In what ways?
  • Some books provide examples of goodness conquering evil.  Does this book provide any?
  • What lesson does one or more characters learn that will help improve their lives?
  • What obstacles does the setting provide that the main character must overcome?
  • What is the climax of the book (the point at which all of the action comes together, the highest point of interest)?  Not all stories have a climax.
  • Do you think the author is trying to provide a "moral" or a major lesson?
  • How does the protagonist (main character) overcome problems in this book?
  • Is there an antagonist (someone who provides an obstacle) to the main character?  What details lead to your decision?  What happens to that character?

Picture Books for Discussing Themes:

  • Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya
  • Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting
  • The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant
  • The Raft by Jim LaMarche
  • Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna
  • Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by Douglas Wood
  • Fables by Arnold Lobel

Familiar Movies for Discussing Themes:

  • The Lion King (responsibility)
  • Babe, the 1995 version (redemption)
  • The Emperor's New Groove (humility)
  • Antz (friendship)
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the 1971 version (greed)
  • A Little Princess, the 1995 version starring Liesel Matthews, which is lesser known, but well done (the power of imagination)

Songs for Discussing Themes:

  • "Hero" by Mariah Carey (appreciation)
  • "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" by Green Day (good-byes)
  • "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack (sacrifice/societal pressure)
  • "Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin (family relationships)
  • "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips (overcoming obstacles)


Literature acts as . . .

  • A mirror to enable readers to reflect on life problems and circumstances
  • A source of knowledge
  • A source of ideological challenge
  • A means to peer into the past, and the future
  • A vehicle to other places
  • A means to reflect on inner struggles
  • An introduction to the realities of life and death
  • A vehicle for the raising and discussion of social issues

What is Author's Purpose and Point of View?
The author’s purpose is the REASON why the story was written. It could be to entertain, inform, or persuade.

The Author’s Point of View is how the author FEELS about the topic and events in the writing. Is the author angry, disappointed, sorrowful, or maybe delighted, enthusiastic, or empathetic? 

Why is Author's Purpose and Point of View an important reading strategy? Understanding the author's purpose helps you identify the main idea and the most important details.
To Entertain:  Characters, setting, problem, events, solution
To Inform:  Who, Where, When, What, Why, How
To Persuade: Audience, point of view, supporting reasons

How do we find Author’s Purpose and Point of View to help us understand what we are reading?

As you read ask yourself: Why do I think the author wrote this?  (An author MAY have more than one purpose for writing.)

Look for clues to help understand how the author is feeling and what his/her point of view is. Compare your feelings and point of view with the author’s.  Do you feel the same or differently?


Why do you believe that?

What might be another point of view?

How would this be viewed from the perspective of _____?

How are these ideas alike?  Different?

What feelings or emotions might have caused _____?

The author said _____.  What do you think?

What is an alternative to what the character did?



Araujo, Judith E., M. Ed., CAGS. "What the Author Is Trying to Tell You/Themes/Purpose."Mrs. Judy Araujo, Reading Specialist. N.p., 31 Oct. 2012. Web. <http://www.mrsjudyaraujo.com/what-is-the-author-trying-to-tell-you/>.

Cairney, Trevor. "Literature as a Means to Understand People Different from Yourself."Literature as a Means to Understand People Different from Yourself. N.p., 01 Jan. 1970. <http://trevorcairney.blogspot.com/2012/05/literature-as-means-to-understand.html>.

DRA2 Manual, Pearson Publishing, 2006.

"Teacher to Teacher Ideas in the Top Teaching Blog | Scholastic." Teacher to Teacher Ideas in the Top Teaching Blog | Scholastic. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. <http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/top-teaching/2011/02/helping-students-grasp-themes-literature>.

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