Sometimes when I read a book, I notice something different than another reader. And that is as it should be. I bring myself and my experiences to the text (see Rosenblatt and not CCSS for this). Another reader does not have the same experiences and background I do and might pick up on other elements of the story. Who is right? If you were to believe some critics, there is a correct answer. If you listen to the authors, though, there is not one correct reading.
Now this does not mean that reading is a free-for-all. I need to be able to discuss my reading, pointing to the text and to other texts that might have colored my reading. I cannot just make up a theme or motif. I need to be able to support my reading and interpretation.This also means that someone else's take is just as valid if he or she is able to do the same.
That leads to one of my pet peeves (I have a million of them). Often, I see the question posed, "What is the theme of the story?"
That question should be, "What is one possible theme from this story?"
Consider WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. Here is a 32 page picture book that demonstrates that the second question is better. When I met FTF with my classes, we spent a long time with this book. We discussed themes, illustrations, and the physical characteristics of the book itself.
If I view a text through the eyes of another reader, often I will encounter more meaning, more thematic clues, more things to examine more fully. As this new school year approaches, I hope we will try to view books through the eyes of a child, to be open to their take on the reading. To say, I see," in response to their own responses.