Response to Literature: Purpose

Contributor: Delaine Thomas. Lesson ID: 12328

You've decided to write a response to literature paper (or were assigned one!). Either way, there's a purpose: to persuade someone to either read the book or run from it. Learn how!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Have you ever been so caught up in a book that you felt you were one of the characters?
  • Wouldn't it be fun to write your own book review to share with others?

Sometimes, when you read a really good book, you feel like you become part of the action — maybe to the point of sensing that you become one of the characters.

These interactions with literature are priceless, and the book that generated those emotions should be shared with others in hope that they have the same experience. One of the best ways to convince someone to read (or not read) a piece of literature is to share a written response to literature.

Before continuing, if you missed or need to review the previous Response to Literature Related Lessons, you can find them in the right-hand sidebar.

Sometimes, you may need a little push to get your thoughts about a book moving, even if you really did enjoy the book. Here are a few ideas that may help you focus:

  • Think about the characters in the story and if any of the characters have changed over the course of the book.
  • Compare yourself, someone you know, or a famous historical figure, to the main character.
  • You might even think about the characters' names and why the author decided to name them as he or she did. Do you think there is some significance or purpose?
  • What about setting? Does the setting remind you of somewhere you've been?
  • Maybe you'd rather think about the title, and whether the book should be named something else.
  • You can also discuss the theme of the book, and how it is develops through the characters' actions. Your topic can be as simple as, "I think the book teaches us about ... "
  • Or you can go deeper and try to predict what may have happened prior to the start, or after the ending, of the book, and why.

Whatever you choose as your purpose for writing your response, you need to stay on topic to produce a well-written paper.

Generally, every response to writing includes a summary of the book, a description of the characters, what happened in the plot, and whether you liked it or not. The answer to your overall response question, which will be your topic sentence, must be supported by text-based evidence. Your response is strengthened when you summarize passages and include direct quotations from the text. This text evidence is used to support the topic or response you selected.

There are three basic sections in a response to literature essay: introduction, body, and conclusion.

In the introduction, provide the title of the book, the author’s name, and a brief summary of the book. In your summary, briefly lay out the main events of the story and discuss the traits of the main characters. Then, state your topic to let your reader know what aspect of the book you will discuss in your paper. State three reasons that support your opinion.

In the body, you will begin addressing your opinion, starting with your first reason and using evidence from the text to back it up.

Start a new paragraph for each of your three reasons. Use personal connections to the book, such as your own experiences and what you already know, as well as your text evidence, to build a strong argument to support your opinion.

End your paper with a concluding paragraph that summarizes your argument and tells your reader if they should read the book and why. As always, do not introduce any new information in the closure because this new information may have an unwanted effect on the point you are attempting to make.

In short, a response to literature paper follows a basic essay format, and can best be described as a combination of a persuasive essay (you are trying to convince your reader to see your point of view on the novel), and a research paper (you are investigating the text for factual information to support your claims).

Before continuing to the Got It? section, discuss the answers to the following questions with your teacher or parent:

  1. What is a response to literature?
  2. What is included in a response to literature introduction?
  3. What is included in the body?
  4. Why do you need to include text evidence?
  5. How is evidence presented in the paper?

Remember, when writing a response to literature, you want to use a book that left you with a strong impression.

Continue on to the Got It? section to examine a sample essay.

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