Pleading the Fifth: The (Reluctant) Reader’s Bill of Rights

I love reading. That’s kind of been implied already, yes? As a future teacher, an English and Lit teacher to be exact, I think that’s kind of part of the job requirements. Or maybe it isn’t, I don’t know. In any case, in a few short years I will not only serve as a guide to my future students in their learning journey, but in their reader’s journey as well. And the fact is this:

Not every student will love reading.

As unbelievable or inconceivable as that may seem to avid readers like me, there are people who find reading either uninteresting or burdensome. No matter where the origins or reasons behind the beef with reading stem from, it’s important to let our students know that their reading experience lies in their hands and their hands only. They have rights, rights that are neatly and orderly laid out in Daniel Pennac’s Reader’s Bill of Rights. Here’s a copy to study and gather thoughts:

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

The thing about rights is that they’re universal, so even those who aren’t reluctant with literature can exercise any of the above rights. Though some rights may have to bend with differing contexts (Sorry kids, the right to not read doesn’t cover assigned readings), these rights are truly omnipresent in any person’s free-reading experiences.

I can’t tell you how many times I haven’t finished a book because it bored me, or because it didn’t compel me the way others did (even after I gave it a fair 50-page shot). I have read in places deemed unfit for reading (hood of a car, anyone?), and I have re-read Water for Elephants four times now. I have done all of this because, like many things in life, I had a choice. I had a choice to pick what, when, and where I was reading, just as my students have those same rights when choosing the right book for them.

Reaching out to students who dislike reading and making them love it is every teacher’s goal; if it isn’t, then it’s clear the teacher(s) have not yet become aware of their own Reader’s Rights either and have not yet found their reading niche. There’s something for everyone, but boxing students into pre-cut reader’s molds will do nothing for you or them.

Looking for a way to reach out to your reluctant reader? Show them their Rights and let them know their reading experience is in their hands, because finding a book tailored just for you is too beautiful an experience to miss out on.

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7 thoughts on “Pleading the Fifth: The (Reluctant) Reader’s Bill of Rights

  1. I loved your perspective on this. I also have had so many books that I just couldn’t bring myself to read. The books that I’ve fallen in love with have been one’s that I have read over and over. Why should it matter where you read? As long as you are comfy and can enjoy the experience. Can’t say I’ve read on the hood of a car before, though.

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  2. My favorite part was your parenthesized note reminding readers assigned reading is not optional. That was probably my biggest issue with these reader’s rights. If we give someone the right not to read, how do they know if they ever will? I know if someone had given me the right “not to science” I would have happily waved goodbye to the periodic table from a bean bag in the library!

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    1. There definitely has to be a few guidelines before implementing this list. Or else I think I’d have a class full of kids who would exploit the “not reading” part for their assignments. Not in my class, dudes!

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  3. Reluctant readers are going to be the most frustrating students I’m afraid. I’ve had many that explain to be how boring reading is because they simply can not picture what is going on in their minds. I’ve had some success giving these students historical non-fiction because they know the past and can see that in their minds. However, their are a slight few that can not use their imagination at all.

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  4. I completely agree with you when it comes to students and their rights. Just because you have the right as a reader to not read, that doesn’t apply to required reading, but also the teacher should take into consideration the students’ abilities and how fast they CAN read. I also loved the way you mapped out the teachers’ role in the students’ journey through education and reading. These are great ways to get your students into reading if they’re not already!

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