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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb fictional essay, or essayistic fiction, about reading and children
Daniel Pennac's book-length essay "Comme un roman" was previously translated into English as "Reads Like A Novel" in the early 1990s; for whatever reason, Walker Books, the behemoth of children's book publishers in the English-speaking world, has commissioned a new version. Sarah Adams's translation has the less literal title of "The Rights of the Reader", but she does...
Published on 8 Sep 2009 by lexo1941

versus
1.0 out of 5 stars Not a pleasure to read
This book did not entertain or educate me, it frustrated me. I would not recommend this book. This is the second book by Daniel Pennac which has not been to my taste.
Published 14 months ago by Caractacus


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb fictional essay, or essayistic fiction, about reading and children, 8 Sep 2009
By 
lexo1941 (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Rights of the Reader (Paperback)
Daniel Pennac's book-length essay "Comme un roman" was previously translated into English as "Reads Like A Novel" in the early 1990s; for whatever reason, Walker Books, the behemoth of children's book publishers in the English-speaking world, has commissioned a new version. Sarah Adams's translation has the less literal title of "The Rights of the Reader", but she does translate the book into a witty and conversational English. Whether this is an accurate representation of Pennac's tone I don't know, not having read the original, but it certainly makes for a book that you want to keep reading.

Part of Pennac's basic argument is that we put too much pressure on children to learn to read. They will learn to read at their own pace, he says, unless we try to force that pace, in which case it will take them longer, because they will resent us. In any case, reading should be a pleasure, not something you force yourself to do in order to earn the right to watch TV.

This may sound like a dry book meant for parents and teachers, but in fact it's a witty and well-observed story about all of us who were once innocent or not-so-innocent readers and who are now older, supposedly wiser and possibly hoping that our kids, if we have any, are going to be interested in books too. What Pennac is saying cuts to the heart of modern education: we need to stop thinking about targets, and more about empty time. Boredom, he says, is essential to developing the imagination. If our kids are never bored, if their every moment is filled with some sort of supposedly fun/educational activity, if they are never left at a loss, if they always have to be improving themselves, then they will never be able to develop imaginatively; they will never learn to populate their solitudes.

There is something profoundly wise and profoundly subversive about this argument; it's subversive in that it genuinely challenges many of the assumptions built into the educational systems not only of France but also of the UK, Ireland, the USA and for all I know many other places. The system places enormous pressure on parents and teachers to ensure that the children are going to achieve, achieve, achieve. What it doesn't do is let the children alone to be themselves for a bit. It is assumed that if they are left alone, they will turn to the terrible soma of TV (or the internet) and become passive consumers. Pennac has good fun with the spectacle of the desperately bored teenager upstairs ploughing through Madame Bovary, while downstairs the parents and their dinner guests witter on about how terrible TV is (and how much better it used to be).

This is, incidentally, one of the best books about the pleasure of reading ever written. In a genre that includes Marcel Proust's "Against Sainte-Beuve" and Milan Kundera's "Immortality", that's some heavy competition, but Pennac is more focused than Proust (who was admittedly only revving up to writing his novel) and far more coherent and less reactionary than Kundera (whose unhelpful prescription turns out to be the same as the French educational system in general: Read More Classics, You Ignorant Philistines!)

French literature can have a reputation for pretension and humourless incomprehensibility. This is strange, when you consider that modern French literature is dominated by masters of spare lucidity like Camus, Gide and Saint-Exupery and ebullient and intricate jokers like Perec and Queneau. The knotty, opaque gurus (Sartre, Derrida etc.) are a minority in the corner. Pennac is lucid, funny and intelligent and I recommend this book to anyone who cares about reading.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too, 4 Dec 2008
By 
TeensReadToo "Eat. Drink. Read. Be Merrier." (All Over the US & Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Rights of the Reader (Paperback)
THE RIGHTS OF THE READER is translated from French, which Daniel Pennac wrote in 1992. Pennac was an inner-city teacher in Paris. He believes that we need to promote reading for pleasure in order to get our young ones to read.

He relates many stories from his own time spent growing up and teaching. He believes in the power of the story. He thinks that when children are asked to answer comprehension questions when learning to read, all their love of reading disappears.

I really think he is on to something here. I teach fifth grade and read aloud all the time. Since the No Child Left Behind act has become law, I haven't had as much time to read aloud as I did before. I have so many standards to teach and especially in California where they are so high, that reading aloud time has been drastically cut. I loved this book because it validated what I believe.

He also wrote ten rights of the reader:

1. The right to read. I liked this right because even though I am a reader there are times when I don't read because life has gotten to me. I remember a real sparse time after the birth of both of my kids. I didn't crack a book for about nine months.
2. The right to skip.
3. The right not to finish a book. This hit home with me, too. I always felt guilty when I didn't finish a book for a book club, but I have the right not to finish a book whenever I don't like it.
4. The right to read it again - Harry Potter, here I come!
5. The right to read anything.
6. The right to mistake a book for real life.
7. The right to read anywhere. This applies to me since I have read many times in Disneyland - and I have pictures to prove it.
8. The right to dip in.
9. The right to read out loud.
10. The right to be quiet and not discuss the book with anyone.

I enjoyed THE RIGHTS OF THE READER a lot and recommend it to all who are readers or who work with children.

Reviewed by: Marta Morrison
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Will make you reach for another book..., 4 April 2011
This review is from: The Rights of the Reader (Paperback)
Though this is a short book, it took me a while to get through it. Not because it was hard work, but because I kept abandoning it (well within my rights!) for other novels, although I think Pennac would approve. Whether you are an avid reader or have fallen out with your library of late, I'm fairly certain this little essay will inspire you to tackle that heavyweight Russian masterpiece you've always been meaning to, try out a new author recommended to you by a friend, or just revisit one of your favourites.

The tone is really refreshing: light, conversational, but not over-simplistic. It easily pulls you in, and is not bogged down by too much intellectual analysis or obscure literary references. Pennac draws on his own experiences as a reader, a father and a teacher, to illustrate the joys and sorrows of reading, and how it should and shouldn't be approached. He dispells many myths about literature and reading, arguing the case for the '10 Rights of The Reader' in a very effective way. The pages are interspersed with illustrations from Quentin Blake, an artist whose drawings encapsulate a kind of jolly subversiveness and freedom of imagination, perfectly balancing the text.

This is a gem of a book that will re-affirm or renew your love of literature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wise reflections on the power of stories, 11 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Rights of the Reader (Paperback)
This is a very engaging read. I read it quickly in a couple of sittings. It isn't dense in style - it is light and playful in many ways, aided by Quentin Blake's excellent line drawings, and a very readable, flowing translation by Sarah Adams. However, the insights within the book about our attitudes to reading are very thoughtful and wise, especially in the adult anxiety about our children's attitude to reading when compared to their attitude to electronic media of various kinds. The book certainly re-energised my own reading again after a quiet lapse into non-reading, or rather a thin reading of non-fiction only. This book helped to me to remember once again the wonder of stories and made me realise that I had missed that deep immersion in a tale for its own sake. Pennac's experiences with recalcitrant adolescent readers and how he switches them on to reading are a little optimistic, I feel, at times. I can't quite believe that a story will unlock every adolescent mind as it lurks behind its walls of testosterone, anger and resentment. The book is not an educational textbook on reading; it is more a reflection on the power and importance of stories. The ten rights of the reader, which come towards the end of the book, are precisely right, and rather than being a set of commandments they actually are a set of axioms that set you free as a reader to approach (and leave) any story in any way you like.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read for this reader!, 9 Jan 2011
By 
S. Pope (Oxon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Rights of the Reader (Paperback)
I came across this book on an amazon search into literacy, as a parent who is getting involved with literacy activities at my daughter's school. I thought its premise sounded interesting and the favourable reviews prompted me to read it. I was not disappointed ... and devoured it in two sittings.

Quite simply, this is a book that all parents should read about reading. And children too. Why not? I am about to start a reading club in my daughter's primary school and Pennac's 10 Rights about reading, which he humorously likens to the 10 Commandments, will become the focus of our weekly discussions. Show a child the first one - the right not to read - and they will be horrified. Not read? When they are forced to swallow such turgid offerings as The Oxford Learning Tree's titles week after week to meet basic standards? Shocking. My daughter was stunned... But as a parent I felt liberated.

Pennac talks about why reading becomes so difficult to encourage in many children - because it becomes an obligation rather than a pleasure. (Think of all the mums who lock themselves in the loo with a book secreted away in a clothes hamper so they have some precious reading time, or children with flashlights under the duvet, or the thousands of commuters delving into the latest bestsellers on the Tube.) By making reading into something that authors never intended - something to be studied, analysed to death and pulled apart, seam from seam - we are sucking all the joy out of the act of reading for reading's sake.

Pennac's solutions are simple and obvious - let people enjoy what they want to read when they want to do so. Read aloud to them. Don't prohibit anything you think is a bad book and don't try to force feed them the good stuff. His descriptions of parental and scholastic neuroses of reading and literacy are spot on, hilarious and so very true. Pennac is also very moving in his descriptions of why young children value bedtime stories so very much - providing as they do an intimate opportunity for bonding between parent and child no matter how well or badly the day went beforehand.

This is one of the best books I have ever read - fiction or non-fiction - and I have been recommending it to all my friends. Dig in and enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wherever, whatever, however, 22 Feb 2010
By 
Mr. N. Foale "electronic word" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Rights of the Reader (Paperback)
Argues that reading is an expressive act, and that we must embrace the freedom to read wherever, whatever, and however we like. We should skip from book to book, we should follow our passions. If that works for adults then it'll work for kids too and encourage new generations of readers.

With cartoons by the Roald Dahl illustrator Quentin Blake and short snappy chapters it is a joy to read. Check it out if you are a compulsive reader, anxious parent, or freedom lover.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing, great for ITT & NQT's., 4 Jun 2009
This review is from: The Rights of the Reader (Paperback)
This book is really refreshing to read and challenges the routines of traditional book schemes, daily reading and National Curriculum set book lists. It is really humourous and makes you realise that children should have a choice in what and when they read. This book really helped me with University assignments in relation to the development of children's reading, but is also a very good and easy read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a beautiful book., 8 April 2009
By 
S. Brown - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Rights of the Reader (Paperback)
If you are interested in helping children to find their own unique passion for reading, then you must read this book.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Not a pleasure to read, 17 May 2013
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This review is from: The Rights of the Reader (Paperback)
This book did not entertain or educate me, it frustrated me. I would not recommend this book. This is the second book by Daniel Pennac which has not been to my taste.
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5.0 out of 5 stars All book groups should read this!, 31 Jan 2013
By 
Mrs. F. Green "lisagee" (buckinghamshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Rights of the Reader (Paperback)
This is a lovely book, a primer for all who love reading for pleasure or entertainment, which provides a great starter of discussion, argument, theorising, whatever.
Good for parents of small children who are just starting to read - where does it all go wrong later, and so often at school?
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The Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac (Paperback - 2 Oct 2006)
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