Contented Reader

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The Rights of the Reader

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The Rights of the Reader

Daniel Pennac, translated by Sarah Adams

Candlewick Press

All babies love to read.  Pick up a one-year old, put her on your lap, and grab a thick cardboard book with lots of pictures.  Read aloud.  The baby will smile, talk, eagerly turn pages and point at familiar images.  One of my fondest family memories is the way my baby nephews would say “More book! More book!” when we finished a book.

But then many of them learn to hate to read.  They start hating to read when they start learning to read in school, start learning to read for themselves.  On the lap of a loved one, being read to, reading is nothing but pleasure.  But when a child is required to learn to read for herself, and then asked questions about what she has read, and if she gets the questions wrong, that is bad… something important changes.  Teachers turn reading from a pleasure to a test.

And then there’s the worried parents, who, wanting to instill the love of reading in their child even though they themselves would much rather be watching TV, force the child to read.  Everything they do to pressure the child to read just increases her anxiety and resentment.

By the time the child is seven or eight, she has changed from a baby who loves books to a child who feels angry and resentful and fearful about them.

It’s a sad story.  Is it inevitable?  Is there another way to invite children to read?

Could we continue reading aloud with children, for pure pleasure, even when they are old enough to read for themselves?

Could we share the stories without so often demanding that the child answer questions or explain what they have read?

Could we allow children to read in the ways that we ourselves read?


Written by Contented Reader

October 23, 2012 at 7:01 am

Posted in Reviews


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