Transactional Theory

This semester in READ 6308 students explored various theories about reading and learning to read. As part of this exploration, they wrote a post for our blog.

By Ann and Abel

Louise Rosenblatt is best known for pioneering the reading response theory known as Transactional Theory.  Rosenblatt argues that the text is simply ink on paper until a reader comes along and interacts with the text.  She further identifies the “poem” as the time when the text is brought into the reader’s mind and the words begin to function symbolically, evoking, in the transaction, images, emotions, and concepts that correspond with the reader’s schema.  Louise Rosenblatt further argues that the symbolic transaction can only occur in the reader’s mind and that it does not take place on the page, in the text, but in the active act of reading by the reader. Therefore, the reader plays a significant role in determining the meaning of the text and thus the literature being read must be considerate of the mind of the individual reader or the many varied groups of readers.  As Rosenblatt (1985) states

“…to see the reading act as an event involving a particular individual and a particular text, happening at a particular time, under particular circumstances, in a particular social and cultural setting, and as part of the ongoing life of the individual and the group.”

Transactional Theory describes two stances of reading the efferent stance and the aesthetic stance.  The latter stance focuses on the full emotional, aesthetic, and intellectual experiences offered by the text being read while the former stance focuses on the reader reading to acquire and or  seek information on a given subject or topic.  Additionally, a reader can transfer between both efferent and aesthetic stances during the reading process. 

The Transactional Classroom

The teacher’s role according to the Transactional Theory is to create a pathway to facilitate the exploration of the literature being read by the students through mentoring, guiding, and adapting the objectives of the day’s lessons.  This can be achieved through multi-level instruction, reading-writing workshops, scaffolding, and read alouds.  Comparatively, the role of the student is to be an active participant in the reading process by making the lessons meaningful through a variety form of responses.  Reading responses can parallel the many varied multi-intelligences that the reader brings to the classroom. Transactional Theory does not focus on the traditional correctness of the presentation of the text, instead it fosters and environment in which all responses are considered correct and are valued by the students.  Students cooperatively discuss their responses and exhibit behaviors that value all responses accordingly. 

 In conclusion the Transactional Reading Theory describes reading as an active process in which the reader interacts both in an aesthetic or efferent manner in order to make meaning of the text.  This is done through cooperative and open discussions utilizing the many varied types of student responses developed by the reader.


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