In Better Than Life, his great collection of essays about the joy of reading, French writer Daniel Pennac lays out what he calls The Reader’s Bill of Rights:

1. The right to not read
2. The right to skip pages
3. The right to not finish
4. The right to reread
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to escapism
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right to browse
9. The right to read out loud
10. The right to not defend your tastes

While librarians intuitively encourage and champion these rights, many readers — or parents — rarely think of them. Sometimes they think the opposite.

For instance, look at No. 10, the right to not defend your tastes. Sometimes readers are made to feel their reading choice is not appropriate or somehow beneath them. Librarians do not judge people by the books they read, including children. We understand the vast array of reading tastes and we celebrate them all! If everyone read the same thing, libraries would have limited and boring collections, and people would be boring!

Children are no exception to The Reader’s Bill of Rights. They develop preferences and styles for reading, just like adults. Sometimes a child will come home after a long day of learning and want to read a book they read at a younger age. Why? Because sometimes they need to put on their “comfy reading slippers” and read something that will not tax their mind; they need the escape. It’s okay for a child to make that choice at that particular time.

Or sometimes a child will want to read a book they’ve read several times before. Don’t let this worry you! Every time a child reads something they’ve read before, they get something new out of it. You may groan when your child wants to read a poorly written book that makes your teeth grind, but even this is not a bad thing. To recognize quality writing, children have to read bad writing. And lest you think they’ll never stop reading a particular series that you can’t stand, I assure you they won’t be reading Captain Underpants when they go off to high school!

So the next time your child is reading a book that doesn’t make her happy, remember Nos. 1, 2, and 3.

When he covets his favorite book, remember Nos. 4 and 6.

When they’re reading under the covers after you’ve put them to bed, celebrate No. 7.

And no matter what, always keep No. 10 close to your — and their — hearts and keep coming to the library.


By Karrie Fisher

Ms. Fisher is our librarian.