Daniel Pennac’s “Readers Bill of Rights” is everything I did as a student I did not let my teacher know I did. We get so caught up on the notion that everything done in
school is for a grade, pass or fail, to be completed with the utmost accuracy. How would that be any different for books? A student’s job is to read as many books off of a canonized list in full competition, to relate to its peculiar plot, and be able to explain various aspects in a 3 paged, double-spaced, Times New Roman sized 12-point font. Don’t forget to cite your sources in MLA format.
By the time a student is done with all this work, they have forgotten it is even possible to enjoy the whole experience. But that isn’t that the whole purpose to reading literature? To feel something, to gain an experience, to get lost in another world and learn about a different culture. Pennac’s guideline’s allow for skipping around, indulging endlessly or, in needed cases, abandonment. How can you truly understand a novel and let it resonate with you if you don’t even enjoy it? No one tells us we are allowed to put uninteresting books down. No one lets us know that not reading is an option. (I do not advocate for this one, but I do understand wanting to read a different genre.) No one let’s us know it’s okay to read at our own pace. I mean, in gym class I knew, expected even, to finish in the last half of the mile run, but Language Arts class? No way, that was my jam. The classroom was my place to be first, and someone else’s to be behind.
The “Reader’s Bill of Rights” should be hung in every classroom. Students should be allowed to know their reading rights and to question them. Teachers should be able to honestly defend and explain the rights in a way that make reading comforting and exciting.