Our reading lessons may be dynamic; they may be impeccably planned and perfectly executed—yet they still fall flat. Sure, our students go through the motions; they read the book and complete the assignment, but at times it seems their hearts just aren’t in it. Why does this happen and how do we remedy it?
Daniel Pennac, author of The Rights of the Reader may offer some insight. In his book, he explains that for many students, reading—especially reading books we value—can feel like a chore. Sure, reading is good for them, but it’s also good for adults to go to the gym and eat Grape Nuts cereal in the morning; that doesn’t necessarily mean we want to do it, does it?
Pennac believes that students should read, but like any reader, he argues, they have rights. And one of their inalienable rights is to make as many book choices as possible, including a choice in the books that the class reads together. Choice = empowerment; empowerment = buy-in.
We highly recommend that you read Pennac’s book for yourself, but we do want to share what he calls the 10 Inalienable Rights of the Reader:
- The right not to read
- The right to skip pages
- The right to not finish
- The right to reread
- The right to read anything
- The right to escapism
- The right to read anywhere
- The right to browse
- The right to read out loud
- The right not to defend your tastes
In the past, we’ve approached Pennac’s Rights in a couple ways: One way is by replicating the rights, creating a poster and discussing it with your students. The second way—and the one that seemed to resonate most with our students—is to simply introduce the concept to students and have them take ownership of it by creating their own Inalienable Rights of the Reader list.
If you decide to give this activity a shot, please tell us about it or share pictures with us. We’d love to see what your students come up with!