Friday, August 04, 2006

Reader's Bill of Rights

Are you familiar with the READER'S BILL OF RIGHTS? Although French author Daniel Pennac wrote this declaration to help adults better encourage young people's love of reading, it holds true for readers of all ages. It was first published in Pennac's book Better Than Life and has been reprinted many times.

The Reader's Bill of Rights

The right not to read.
The right to skip pages.
The right to not finish.
The right to reread.
The right to read anything.
The right to escapism.
The right to read anywhere.
The right to browse.
The right to read out loud.
The right to not defend our tastes.

In her online column, "Reading Between The Lines," Kris Adams Wendt of Rhinelander (Wi.) District Library explains the context in which Pennac wrote the Reader's Bill of Rights:

Pennac dedicates his book to “those few adults who gave me the gift of reading, let their books speak and never once asked if I had understood.” His writing is witty, funny, entertaining and very wise.

He visualized the magical threesome of a small child, a caring adult and Dr. Seuss, all joyously sharing the story of Sam-I-Am who does not like green eggs and ham. He contrasts that moment with the “must read” and “must understand” times yet to come in the life of that child – the questions, worksheets, tests, [and] book reports....

The author encourages parents to read aloud even after their children are ready and able to read to themselves. To recapture the cozy relaxation of the pre-school years, night after night, until the school age child trusts in reading as a pleasurable activity and picks up the book to read ahead.

Pennac takes a step beyond the usual read-aloud enthusiasts by asking adults to grant young people the rights and privileges that we associate with our own reading.

To Pennac's original rights, I would add "the right to keep private what one is reading."

What reading rights do you assert?

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