I love Daniel Pennac’s Reader’s Bill of Rights. In case you haven’t seen it in a while (as if you don’t already keep a copy in your back pocket at all times) here it is:
1. The right to not read
2. The right to skip pages
3. The right to not finish
4. The right to reread
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to escapism
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right to browse
9. The right to read out loud
10. The right to not defend your tastes
In the course of writing a manual on reader’s advisory for children to be used by the adult services librarians in my branch, I began a section on reluctant readers. The idea is that when I am not around, I’d like the other librarians, even those who rarely work with children, to feel comfortable with reader’s advisory tools and have some basic background in making suggestions.
This is an incredibly hard feat when reluctant readers come into the equation. Generally, you have about 30 seconds to make your case (unless it’s a parent who is doing the picking, which is a whole ‘nother can of worms.) It’s a quick, scary, but exhilarating dance that could end with a happy child leaving with a book in hand, or with a sad, defeated child leaving with a book in hand.
It is the possibly of this last ending that I strive to avoid. There IS a book for every child. It’s just a matter of discovering it, finding the hook, and above all, respecting the choices of the child reader. For this reason, I think a revised Reader’s Bill of Rights is in order. A Reluctant Reader’s Bill of Rights.
I think the language should be child-friendly and emphasize the types of materials (graphic novels, audio books, magazines, etc.) other than straight fiction, that are okay to read. Here’s what I have so far:
The right to read at your own pace.
The right to choose whatever book you want.
The right to read graphic novels and manga.
The right to read magazines.
The right to read non-fiction.
The right to not like a book.
I think the last one is particularly important. Not everyone is a “reader.” Not everyone must read or enjoy the classics. It is important that kids who don’t like reading feel that their opinions count. I don’t want to give a child the impression that I am part of some Book Mafia, in conspiracy with their teachers and parents, trying to push a book into their hands because “it’s good for you!”
My attempt at a Reluctant Reader’s Bill of Rights is a work in progress. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. I’ll compile revisions and additions in a future post.