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The Right to Read

Post by Krista Biggs
Posted August 05, 2014 in Readers' Advisory News

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As reader's advisory professional, I'm stunned whenever any particular type of book is targeted as "not worth reading." Censorship and suppression are ongoing challenges for librarians, of course, but it's the court of public opinion that more often limits what readers will pick up.  A recent Slate article, for example, bashed adult fans of YA books and made me more than a little hot under the collar (this month's "Around the Web" column has more to say on the piece). 

I am proud to be part of a profession that both promotes and protects the freedom to read, and strives to help readers identify what appeals to them.  For some folks, that may be comics (check out Matt Groening's May 2014 graphic novel release: The Simpsons/Futurama Infinitely Secret Crossover); for others, maybe magical realist novels with challenging female characters (did I mention Helen Oyeyemi's Boy, Snow, Bird?). 

The truth is that most popular genres, from Victorian novels to the Sunday comics, have been disparaged as "unworthy" reading material at one time or another. Part of what librarians defend is a reader's right to choose books and stories that matter to them.  Author and teacher Daniel Pennac (in Better than Life) offers a compassionate "Reader's Bill of Rights," that recognizes reading as a powerful act of self-determination.  He grants readers:

  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

What books have helped you exercise these rights? (Bonus if they're YA!)