The Rights of the Reader : Daniel Pennac

A few quick words of introduction for this one. I’ve been looking at art books all this week and I wondered whether to include The Rights Of The Reader in that. And I think that I can (well, that’s self-evident what with this post existing and all) but to be more precise, I think that because of several things.

Art is about connecting. Words are art. Language is art. Sometimes text, language and words can be the most beautiful of things (look at Jenny Holzer or my beloved Barbara Kruger for examples of this). The concept of viewing, of looking at something and being part of it, being engaged in the moment of it and engaging in the transactional nature of this giving, of the performance, is something that translates from word to art to theatre to busking on the street corner with your friends during the Summer holidays.

Art is about viewing. Art is about being.

And sometimes it’s about being very, madly, immensely inspired.


The Rights of the ReaderThe Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fiery, passionate and beautiful, vividly eloquently so, Pennac’s fine book on the rights of the reader should be mandatory. I’ve read a lot of it before in extracts, or in the very fine poster that’s available which features the ten rights of the reader, but I’ve never read the whole thing. Which is a shame, really, but it’s something that I’ve rectified and I would urge you, if you have any interest in reading or pedagogy or cultural attitudes towards literacy, to not hold off in getting a copy of this. It’s very good. Hugely good.

So where to begin with this revalatory little book? Perhaps we begin with the quotes that I have pulled from it, feverishly underlining sections and folding down the corners, the quotes that have resonated with me and made me realise that I do not want to let this book go.

On reading aloud:

“Reading a story every evening … was a moment of communion between us, of textual absolution, a return to the only paradise that matters: intimacy. Without realizing it, we were discovering one of the crucial functions of storytelling and, more broadly speaking, of art in general, which is to offer a respite from human struggle.” (33)

On re-reading books with your children:

“Reading again isn’t about repeating yourself, it’s about offering fresh proof of a love that never dies” (58)

On reading:

“If reading isn’t about communication, it is, in the end, about sharing. But a deferred and fiercely selective kind of sharing” (87)

On not reading:

“While it’s fine for someone to reject reading, it’s totally unacceptable that they should be – of feel that they have been rejected by reading.

“To be excluded from books, even the ones you can do without, is terribly sad: a solitude within solitude” (151)

I could pull a thousand quotes from this book and keep going, I think, I could wave it in the faces of a thousand people and demand for it to be obigatory reading on a thousand curricula and I think a part of me would if I could. If I could.

And perhaps I can. Perhaps we all can. Because, when you choose to read something, when you choose to let it into your life, your world, you, you let it change you. You accept that it will. You need it. You might not know it, you might not be able to even conceptualise it, but something, deep down inside of you, needs it. Wants it. Longs for it.

This book makes me feel like I can move mountains.

View all my reviews

5 thoughts on “The Rights of the Reader : Daniel Pennac

  1. I completely agree – an excellent book. Inspiring. The chapter fifteen “Maman” did it for me. You know Pennac must have been (still is) an inspiring teacher.

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