Readers Have Rights

I distinctly remember the first book that I ever hated (yes, English majors can hate books, too). I was in 8th grade, and my English teacher made the class read Johnny Tremain. I remember complaining right along with everyone else; Why were we reading such a dull and boring read? The couple of weeks that we were stuck reading and discussing that novel I could be found staring out the window of our classroom silently waiting for the torture of that novel to end.

I know, I know. Since that was a class assignment (and I was a goody two-shoes), there was no way around reading it. However, this type of a thing happens more often than I care to think about. How many kids have turned away from the idea of reading because they are forced to read books that they loathe? How many fantastic books have these kids missed out on because of this?

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(Photo: flickr.com)

These are the reasons that I loved Daniel Pennac’s “Reader’s Bill of Rights” so much. The 10 Rights that are outlined are crucial. We need to empower kids to know that they can read (or not read) at their pleasure. Kids and adults need to feel as though they have control over what they read and how they read, because they should have this power. If we are asking everyone to read and then read more, than shouldn’t they at least be able to decide what to read?

Readers, you have the power. You don’t have to continue reading a book if you feel like it’s sucking the life out of you. You can skip pages to get to the “meat” of the novel. You are able to pick where you want to read and when you want to read. You have the absolute right to reread anything you want (I especially enjoy this one) without feeling ashamed and having to justify your choice with others. You don’t have to defend your choice in books; once you find a series or author that you love, go for it! Read all of what your choice has to offer. Most importantly, you have the right to not read at all.

Readers need to exercise these rights. Use them all. We can’t keep discouraging readers by forcing them to read a certain way or to read at all. By doing this, we effectively turn them off from reading for good. Let them choose. These Rights will hang in my future classroom with bold lettering. I want my students to read, but I want them to read what they want to read; whether it’s a classic, a YA novel, a graphic novel, or even the newspaper, I’ll just be happy to see them engaged in reading something. If we let students feel empowered by their choice instead of dragged down by our choice, we allow them to be more confident readers. This, in turn, just might get them to do the thing we all want them to do: read more.

-Regan

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14 thoughts on “Readers Have Rights

  1. asimplebookaddiction

    It was Of Mice and Men for me. Hated it. And I am always skimming pages of books if the story is moving too slow for me and I want to get to the next bit of excitement…always felt bad for that, but no more!

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    1. I’m right there with you! I am notorious for skipping through certain parts of stories if they aren’t moving quick enough or if I’m looking forward to an event happening. I’ve never read Of Mice and Men, but you aren’t the first to tell me that it’s not your favorite!

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  2. Me and Animal Farm. I understand the feeling completely. I love the rights and I feel that as future educators we should try to help our students uphold them as much as possible while still giving them the education they need. I think there is a happy medium and a way that we can do it. Great post, you have amazing insight. Especially about skipping boring pages, I do that a lot. If I get bored with a book, I skim, tune into dialogue and just kind of bounce around to get the general gist of things. Skip ahead to the good stuff!

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    1. Ah, yes. Animal Farm. That was another book in my dislike pile!! I’m a page skipper as well, especially if the story isn’t moving fast enough for me. Dialogue is the first thing I look for! Thanks for the read, DeAndra! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was booking right along with my Newbery Challenge (reading all the Newbery books) until I met Johnny Tremain. Oh my gosh, that’s a boring book! And it continues to be assigned and taught to poor helpless children! I feel like I have a fairly high tolerance for boring books (my area of specialty is Restoration and 18th-Century British Lit after all!) but Johnny Tremain did me in. I think we all have an example of “that book” in our reading pasts. And of course it won’t be the same book for everyone. I loved Animal Farm, for instance, when I had to read it in 11th grade, but I’ve met enough people who hated it to know that it definitely isn’t the right book for everyone. And that’s just it: there IS a right book for each of us, but it’s never going to be the same book. My right book isn’t yours. I think most teachers would agree with that. So why, then, continue to assign one book to entire classes as if one book can ever meet everyone’s needs and interests? We can only do that when we don’t take our students’ needs and interests very seriously.

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    1. I agree. Everyone that I talk with tends to distinctly remember “that book” that they disliked. I love the idea of assigning different books to different students, or possibly just not assigning anything at all and letting them choose! A book that I love could be a book that they hate, so why should I make them read it and struggle through it. I want my (future) students to enjoy reading and get the most out of it. 🙂 Thanks for the read and all of your thoughts, Dr. Ellington! I appreciate it. 🙂

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  4. Wyoming Jen

    I really want to make the 10 rights a poster now too! Thanks for the idea.
    My “that book” is Scarlet Letter. I just found out my husband was assigned to read it in middle school – like THAT is an appropriate book for a 12 year old. (Okay, I don’t really know because I never read it, but still……)
    Have you thought of the idea of incorporating Lit Circles in the classroom? I think it could be an interesting thing to have small groups reading the same book. I supported a couple of classes that used Lit Circles and they are tough to “teach” but the kids like them. Just another idea for the tool box!
    Great thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes. Scarlet Letter. I just read that for the first time this past semester for American Literature! I’m still not positive exactly how I feel about it to be honest.
      Lit Circles sound really interesting! I’ve never heard of them before. I think that sounds like a great idea; I’ll definitely be looking into that!
      Thanks for your thoughts! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wyoming Jen

        It is a lot of work for the teacher, but that’s our job! We had 20 girls engaged and talking about books in small groups. Amazing!

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