Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rights of the Reader

Daniel Pennac wrote a book - and the great Quentin Blake illustrated - called The Rights of the Reader.  In library school, we hear a lot about intellectual freedom, the right to read, etc.  But then in the school library, it's all about Accelerated Reader.  The two aren't necessarily at odds, but often they are.  When I substitute teach, I try to make my way to the school library, and often I'll hear teachers (or even librarians) say something like, "Oh, you can't check this out, it's out of your AR level."  That's so sad to me.

I know AR can be a great program.  In my children's previous school, there was an AR auction at the end of the year, with cool prizes, not the chintzy pencils or bouncy balls, but a ride in a limo, a beret bought in Paris, even a stereo system.  Those kids were excited about AR and everyone got a prize.  The problem is, of course, that we're tethering ourselves to this very expensive program whose very premise ties an extrinsic motivator to what should be an intrinsic one.  When we give children a limo ride or money or even a mere pencil, we're taking away something important:  reading for the joy of reading.

And yet, I've seen kindergarteners go after the Wimpy Kid books when there was no way they could read them.  (That's when the graphic novel section of this bookstore model came in handy - they wanted pictures?  Here's some pictures!)  Then when the fourth graders came in, Wimpy Kid was all gone.  Students obviously need to read books at their reading level - I suppose that's when the 5 finger test comes in handy. 

But download this great poster on the Rights of the Reader.  I'd say I especially adhere by Rule 7, the right to read anywhere!  The picture below, though, is for Rule 1, the right not to read.  Even if that's not a right I choose to use, it's my right nonetheless.  Do we let children have that right - even occasionally?

Oh and since we're on the subject, don't you ever interrupt me when I'm reading a book.  :)


  1. Oh Miss Christina.... you would like one of my daughters. Today was the last day of the 8th grade-- aka "party day". When I picked her up, I asked "What did you do at the party?" Her reply "I sat in the corner and read, Mom, of course!!" She carries a book with her at all times--- like Linus' security blanket. And Accellerated Reader? well.... (when we were at a school that could afford it), she'd blow through all the books at her level till they HAD to let her check out others.

  2. That's a girl after my own heart! If I ever go out and don't have a book, I'm always sorry afterwards. AR is super expensive - I didn't realize how much until I did some research. How many books can be bought for that $1500? There are other ways to assess students' reading. Be glad if your school doesn't have AR. It's like a drug - once you spend the money to get on it, it's almost impossible to get off of it.