The Rights of the Reader is a quick, impassioned read on a very serious subject- how to engage children in reading when they're young, and keep them engaged throughout their lives. It's made up of 50-odd mini-chapters charting a child's reading life from the young years through to early adulthood, taking aim at stereotypes of reading, readers and books, pitfalls of education and parenting, and more. It's a must-read for anyone who loves children and values education.
Pennac is a very well-known novelist in France, as well as a former teacher, so he knows of what he speaks, and he speaks with passion as he advocates for a pedagogy based on storytelling that transmits the love of literature and reading- reading for pleasure, reading because you enjoy reading, and discovering the pleasures of high-quality literature. To get there, he battles myths and stereotypes teaching that reading is boring, or inaccessible, or only for nerds and loners. He goes to what he believes is the root of the problem- low self-esteem and low expectations, on the part of students and teachers, but he really tackles the myths that students tell themselves which inhibit them and steer them away from reading. He talks about how students come to believe they're not smart enough for the "big books," or that they don't have time to read, or that reading is about coming up with the right answers to please a teacher:
A bad student is, more often than you might think, a kid tragically short of tactics. The students, alarmed by their own inability to give us [i.e. teachers] what we want, are quick to confuse "being a good student" with being cultured. School has washed its hands of them and they soon feel like outcasts from the world of reading. They imagine it's elitist and deprive themselves of books all their lives, just because they didn't know how to talk about them when they were asked to.Pennac's prose, though often funny and engaging, packs a punch and left a strong impression on me. I plan to keep this slim volume close at hand and re-read it often. The end of the book is comprised on the ten "Rights of the Reader" along with Pennac's commentaries. I would strongly recommend this book for anyone involved with children and/or education. It's food for thought as well as action.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.