Daniel Pennac’s The Rights of the Readers


“A well-chosen book saves you from everything, including yourself.”

We all have heard at least once a phrase such as: “Children do not read anymore”, “Pick up a book, it will do you good” or some other adult line, disappointed with its offspring or with youth as a whole. I myself didn’t do much reading as a teenager and I remember my parents telling me to read and turn off that tv. However, that did not do me any good and the pleasure of reading came much later (I remember one day of June  in university, when I should have been studying for an exam, yet I read and read Orwell’s “1984”).

In “The Rights of the Readers” Pennac argues that if teenagers do not read, it’s because they are afraid: afraid not to understand, not to be up to the challenge, afraid of failure. He describes along the chapters, the evolution of reading in the life of a child: from stories that parents told him, that unveiled wonderful world (that of words), he passes to literature hours in school: dry lessons where the interest of the book itself is lost in comments, characterizations, theory in general.

His solution: teach children the pleasure of reading before teaching them how to formalize their understanding of it. Read them books that they would never dare approach on their own, light their curiosity and sow the pleasure of reading. Give them confidence and a good book and everything else will follow.

“A child has no great wish to perfect himself in the use of an instrument of torture, but make it a means to his pleasure, and soon you will not be able to keep him from it.”

I loved this small book and Pennac’s view: his descriptions of a reader, of why we read, why we should read and how we could transmit the sheer pleasure of reading to the new generations.

Have you read any Daniel Pennac? What other book would recommend me?

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