Finding the Theme of a Book

Every novel has an overarching theme: a message that the author is trying to get across.  It can be very challenging for children to learn how to identify the theme of a book. Here are some ways that you can make identifying a theme easier.

List Common Book Themes

Start with a list of common book themes.  Spend a few days talking about those themes and what they mean.  Remember that abstract terms like compassion, loyalty, and acceptance can be hard for children to understand.  Talk about the meaning of the terms and give examples of times that your child might have seen those terms in practice.  For example, talking about compassion might lead to a discussion of times when your child felt sympathy for someone else and tried to help them.  If your child understands the meaning of common book themes, they will have an easier time recognizing them in a novel.

Focus on the Main Character

An author will most often show their theme through the thoughts, actions, and words of a main character.  Talk with your child about the main character in their book.  Discuss what they do and say and how that relates to the themes you have talked about.  For example, if a character helps another child or animal, they are showing compassion.  A main character that tells a lie and then learns that he should have told the truth is learning honesty.  The theme can be shown in the main character either by having the character already exhibit the trait or by the main character learning why the trait is important.

Practice on Shorter Books

The more your child practices finding theme, the easier it will get for them.  One easy way to practice theme is to read shorter, easier books.  Read the books out loud together and then talk about what the author is trying to teach in the book.  Books written for younger children tend to make the theme more obvious because authors want the young children to easily understand their point.  Once your child begins identifying the book theme of these easy books correctly, move on to more advanced books.

Finding theme doesn’t have to be tricky and confusing.  With practice and some parental help, your child can be adept at figuring out the main idea that an author is trying to portray.  How do you help you child figure out the theme of a book?

Elementary Reading Curriculum at Smart Tutor

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