Post 1 of 2: A Real Reader’s Bill Of Rights

I’ve got the best job in the world; I get paid to talk about books and maps and history and philosophy and yes, even grammar and punctuation. Now, lest you write me off as one of those jerks who claim to have found a way to “get paid doing what I love”, let me reveal to you the downside of my job. I have to talk about books and maps and history and philosophy and yes, even grammar and punctuation, with a group of people who divide their time between texting, eating, and being/trying to appear to be bored.

That’s right – I’m a high school English and social studies teacher. As such, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can share my thoughts, my ideas, and my passion for learning with my students. What can I do to help them in the process of growing as readers and writers and thinkers? HOW DO IGET THEM TO BUY IN? I want my students to read and to write… even just a little. I don’t even ask them to like it: just to do it. How do I show kids what it is to be a real reader?

With this in mind, I’ve developed a Real Reader’s Bill of Rights and I’d like to share it with you here:

Real readers have the right to…

…browse. I can spend an entire afternoon in any bookstore in the world with no pressure to buy anything- ever. Sometimes I even sit down in one of the comfy reading chairs that are tucked among the stacks and read entire volumes if I want to.

…not like everything they read. I think reading a book is like entering into a new relationship – some work out, some don’t. I’ve even been known to stop reading a book if it isn’t any good. I give every book 50 pages – if it hasn’t grabbed me by then, I move on.

… talk about books they didn’t like.

… not find a deeper meaning in everything they read. My dear friend Tammy, who is an avid reader and one of the best writers I know, once had a high school teacher who nearly choked the love of reading out of her by giving an asinine writing assignment requiring students to analyze the meaning behind the daily glass of orange juice that a character’s mother served him. Umm… maybe he just liked OJ?

… re-read favorites.

….re-read books they’ve forgotten they’ve already read.

… read about books. I find myself pouring over book reviews, dust jackets, books about books and the people who collect them: all of it is fascinating. Some of my favorite book finds have come from a passing glance at a review in the back of one of those free magazines on an airplane.

… read books NOT on their reading level. I read everything from young adult novels, children’s literature, cookbooks, how-to manuals, and bestselling mysteries, to biographies, philosophical texts, and scholarly physics journals that make me feel small. IT ALL COUNTS.

… get in a rut. I went through a vampire/sci-fi phase that lasted about 4 years. Okay – so I’m still in it. Back off.

… surprise themselves. I’ve started reading biographies and poetry and I’m completely shocked by this development. For years I’ve been a self-proclaimed skeptic of both genres.

… keep lists of books you want to read, and then ignore them.

… check out more books from the library at one time than you could ever possibly read in 21 days.

… buy books that you’ll never read, or won’t get to for a few years.

… own multiple copies of the same title.

So, dear reader, now it’s your turn: what rights would you add to this list? Leave me a comment. I’ll repost this in 2 weeks with any additions I deem satisfactory (that’s teacher-talk for “comments submitted without gross spelling errors”)

4 thoughts on “Post 1 of 2: A Real Reader’s Bill Of Rights

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  1. …read books that have no deeper meaning. They are trash, pure entertainment, low-brow, take your pick. I have some friends that I dearly love but they sneer at things they deem non-intellectual. This seems to go against the very idea of books. They are supposed to be all-inclusive. Everything counts.

  2. 1. This post really made me think about the things in my home. I have way too many blank canvases (collected because of sales), tins (because they fascinate me), plastic bottles and containers (thinking I might use them in my studio….can’t bear to do anything but recycle) and paint brushes (a fetish – I’m afraid!). When I taught art in high school I referred to myself as the “Dumpster Queen”:)

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