The Reading Bill of Rights includes eight “beliefs” that affirm every child’s right to read and what that means in the 21st century… from access to books and great stories, to the ability to analyze, interpret and understand information in the digital age.
Ted Hipple (1996) and Daniel Pennac (1999) suggest reading with subsequent book reports and reviews as part of an educational curricular context, rather than voluntary reading for pleasure, prevents children from holistically enjoying the experience of engaging with a text and immersing themselves within the story. Resulting in students becoming reluctant to read, and totally disinterested in discovering the unique and diverse world of children’s and Young Adults literature in our 21st century.
Pennac believes that by reading to children and adolescents, we (parents, carers, teachers, teacher/librarians) return to them “the gift of reading”, and suggests we invite children to read and grant them the rights and privileges that pertain to our own reading.
Here are Pennac’s Ten, which he calls a “Reader’s Bill of Rights”:
1. The right not to 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 our tastes.
In Better than Life, Daniel Pennac shares his experiences as a parent, a writer and a teacher and asks, how does the love of reading begin? How is it lost? And how can it be regained? This impressive book explores how reading aloud can ensure that a love of books begins, why it is important that children develop a private relationship with books, and what “A Reader’s Bill of Rights” can do to guarantee children value reading(1999).
As a parent, teacher and future teacher librarian, I acknowledge Hipple and Pennac present a very persuasive argument. However, book reports and reviews are only two forms of learning outcomes; the trick is to provide a balanced variety of creative opportunities for students to engage with, when they review texts read for curricular purposes.
Teacher librarian’s face challenges in the provision of e-books to students. These challenges can include the lack of exposure, experience and training by teachers, confusion over copyright, licensing dilemmas when developing e-collections, or justifying the cost of e-books in relation to the cost of print materials. However, there is an increasing trend towards digital material because:
- E-books provide 24/7 access of traditional print content and make it available to multiple simultaneous users regardless of their physical location.
- E-books have features such as hyperlinked information, read-aloud capabilities, dictionaries, and multiple language access instantly.
- E-book content is never lost, damaged, or overdue.
- E-book files can be downloaded, shared, or saved on handheld devices, flash drives, or notebook computers.
- E-books do not take up valuable shelf space in overcrowded libraries.
- E-books can be searched for and accessed from within the online catalog or the library’s website through hyperlinks that direct the user to the content.
- E-books can be integrated into online bibliographies for special research projects and accessed immediately through digital pathfinders or research modules.
- E-books can be accessed and shared by students and parents from home at any time and used to supplement instruction or homework assignments.
- E-books with multiple language options or speech can be used by ESL students both in the classroom and at home to encourage continual language development.
- E-books can be accessed during the summer months to extend the availability of the school library’s holdings to students and their parents even when school is not in session.
- E-books can bring online content to students, teachers, and parents in smaller communities without public libraries.
- Students with reading disabilities such as visual impairments can easily access online content and adjust the fonts or utilize speech software to access reading or research materials (Briscoe, 2011).
From my school library’s perspective, the school’s E-book collection is steadily increasing and students are now regularly accessing e-books for independent reading at school and from home via the school’s intranet. From a teacher’s point-of-view the opinions are divided; with many students unable to download subject e-texts due to family financial constraints, so only half of the students have the necessary texts to use in class. Interestingly, the students actually prefer to read a printed text rather than the e-text. However, teacher’s do happily admit that access to e-texts is instant, require no storage space, and all students are required to have them readily available, (in theory at least), for use in class at any given time. The jury is out on e-books as functional educational texts at the moment, but as fiction, they are a great success!
Censorship and Book Collection
Teachers and librarians may be questioned about the value of having a particular book, and being prepared to handle these challenges requires knowledge about children’s literature and its potential to diversify the curriculum. Censorship is difficult to define, and varies according to who is defining it (Hunt, 2001), but there is often a need to understand conflicts of intellectual freedom as a process based on age, family background, society’s attitudes, religious beliefs, or profession, with the historical and cultural context surrounding a text usually affecting the level of disapproval it receives (Vandergrift, 1997, para. 9). Vandergrift challenges professional teachers and school librarians to “invite others to read, question, think, criticize, and share their own interpretations … Without this ongoing dialogue and challenge to ideas and beliefs, there is no intellectual freedom” (1997, para. 9).
As teacher librarians, we need to consciously consider both the basis of intellectual freedom in our society, and policies, especially Freedom to Read, that exist through professional associations such as ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association), together with our responsibilities as professional educators to our school communities. A very fine line to walk!
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). (2014). Statement on free access to information. Retrieved from: https://www.alia.org.au/about-alia/policies-standards-and-guidelines/statement-free-access-information
Brisco, S. (2011). E-books in the school library. In Polanka, S. (Ed.), No shelf required: E-books in libraries, (pp. 37-54). Chicago: American Library Association.
Elish-Piper, L., Matthews, R. W., Risko, V. J., Johns, J. L., Bass, J., Dasinger, S., Illig-Aviles, B. (n.d.). A Reader’s Bill of Rights. Analyse, Issues and Insights. Retrieved from: http://americanreadingforum.org/yearbook/yearbooks/00_yearbook/
Hipple, T. (1996). A review essay: ‘Better than life’. ALAN Review, 23(3). Retrieved from: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/spring96/hipple.html
Hunt, P. (2001). Children’s literature. Oxford, UK ; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers.
Pennac, D. (1999). Better Than Life. Coach House Press. Toronto, Canada:
The Reading Bill of Rights – A Child’s Right to Read. . The Scholastic Channel. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quOFcoWBAgw
Robertson, D. (2010, Oct 21). The Reading Bill of Rights – A Child’s Right to Read . Scholastic Channel.
Vandergrift, K. E. (1997). Censorship, the Internet, intellectual freedom, and youth. Retrieved from: http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/professional-development/childlit/censorship.html.