A fellow blogger recently posted a link to a blog entry from the ALA (American Library Association), which had reprinted the Reader's Bill of Rights. Taken from a 1996 book by Daniel Pennac called Better Than Life, the ALA printed it in conjunction with a wonderful list of tips for librarians, parents, and teachers to encourage reading.
And what better way is there to encourage reading than to make sure that the prospective reader (especially a young reader) knows that there's no bad reading? If you like it, you should read it. And as we all know, a bad book can often be the gateway drug to great literature.
A READER'S BILL OF RIGHTS
The right to not read.
The right to skip pages.
The right to not finish.
The right to reread.
The right to read anything.
The right to escapism.
The right to read anywhere.
The right to browse.
The right to read out loud.
The right not to defend your tastes.
It was twenty years ago (maybe twenty-five...blocks of time seem to blur at the edges a bit when you're looking at increments of multiple decades) that I realized I didn't have to finish every book I started. What a liberating moment that was! Up to that point, I would slog through a book, regardless of its merits (much less of my own enjoyment or lack thereof). As a consequence, although I read extensively, still, I didn't venture as far afield as I might have. An author new to me would have to come pretty highly recommended before I'd give him a shot...who wants to invest twenty hours in a book they don't enjoy a whit? After I had my bookish epiphany I started to read authors and genres I'd previously been hesitant to try. And, though I'd always read "classics," I ventured more difficult and challenging titles (Gravity's Rainbow anyone? In Search of Lost Time?) than I'd previously attempted, because I knew I could set them aside if it wasn't meant to be. Some of these titles became lifelong favorites, that I've gone back to more than once.
Which brings me to the next item in the ALA list that speaks to me, namely, The right not to defend your tastes. You hear the term "guilty pleasure" a lot, and that makes me sad. Why should something that gives you pleasure--especially if that something is a book or a song or a movie--make you feel guilty? As long as it doesn't hurt anybody, I say enjoy away, guilt-free! I like cozy mysteries by Joanne Fluke and urban fantasy by Rachel Caine. I like Beverly Hills 90210. I like Revenge of the Nerds. I like Herman's Hermits. I know that none of these things represent the epitome of literature or TV or movies or music, but who cares?