You may not have thought about it before, but as a reader, you do have rights. These rights are just as valid for you as for people who engage in other forms of pleasure, and sometimes more so. Don’t be afraid of the consequences – they’ll take care of themselves for you. Read through the list and then pick up a book and start reading; you’ll be much happier for the experience.
Right 1: You do not have to read everything. Just because it is written does not mean that it is worth your time and effort. Determine your purpose before reading any printed matter, and decide if this book, this pamphlet, this whatever it is will help you achieve it. If not, simply put it aside. It’s not a crime. If you do have a purpose – say, a homework assignment – you will have to read it at best possible speed with notes for later recall.
Right 2: You do not have to finish every book you start. There is no contract that says you must torture yourself by forcing yourself to read something that does not meet your purpose and is not to your liking. However, if you do have a strong purpose – say, an English assignment that is due – you will have to find a way to make it through. Chopping the text up into manageable chunks is a good start. Taking notes so you don’t have to re-read sections is also very helpful.
Right 3: You can skip parts of a book if you want to. Again, you need to know what your purpose is in doing the reading. If it doesn’t require you to have 100% comprehension of the text, feel free to jump through sections that move too slowly or simply don’t inspire you to read more. Go right to the juicier sections that keep you hooked or give you more information.
Right 4: You can read anything you want. Whether it’s to gather knowledge or to discover a new character, if it’s written, you can read it. Do not be intimidated by those who would withhold reading material because they deem it inappropriate – as they are entitled to their opinion, you are entitled to yours. Read away and broaden your horizons!
Right 5: You can read something that you’ve read before, and you can do it as many times as you want. Whether it’s the technical specs of a new ship or the story of a new planet, some material can be even more informative or more exciting the second or third time around. In fact, some of the greatest literature is that which you revisit every couple of years over the course of your life, becoming even more familiar with the characters and settings while still learning new things or seeing things in a new way each time you drop in.
Right 6: You can read any place at any time, provided you’re not doing something dangerous while you’re reading, like driving a car (audiobooks are good for those times, but you still need to exercise caution). Books are great for train commutes, lunch breaks, morning pick-me-ups, and late-night wind-downs. They’re also an important part of school and work, though the content will most likely be different than what you read at the beach.
Right 7: You can read out loud if you wish, provided you don’t disturb anyone else. Now, as we are taught to be silent readers beginning in the third grade, you may think that it is silly or childish to read out loud. However, our people started out as storytellers long before we had a means to write, and listening to a good story is always an exciting experience. As old as I am (a comfortable 29+), I still enjoy reading out loud to my mother, and she to me. That way I get to do all the voices, add all the sound effects, and revel in the telling of the story. Hearing a book read is also a way to reinforce the material through auditory processing. The one thing to be aware of is that your reading speed will be limited to about 250 words, which is the average speaking rate of a literate adult. If you need to get through a lot of material in a short amount of time, this is probably not the way to go. Silent reading can be much faster, as long as you’re not subvocalizing a lot.
Right 8: You have the right to be silent. You and the book you’re reading create a unique relationship between writer and reader – you don’t need to share this experience with anybody else, unless it’s something like an English assignment where you’re asked to discuss the themes and characters in great detail. You can also be selective with what you reveal to others about your thoughts and feelings of what you’ve read. Perhaps you’ve developed a secret crush on the hero – why should you blab that to the world? Maybe the story has shown you a side of yourself about which you’re not proud. By all means consider why you feel this way and determine if you want to change your behavior or beliefs, but you don’t need to discuss these feelings with other readers.
Right 9: You have the right to imagine that the story is actually occurring. When you read, the characters and situations in the book can seem quite real to you, and it’s perfectly acceptable to work yourself into the framework of the story. Everyone daydreams, and this is merely another form of that. In fact, it’s a credit to the writer that he/she has created such a living, breathing story that you want to become a part of it. Just be wary of going too far and mistaking the story for the actual world around you. A memoir or a social sciences text work a bit differently, as they bring the real world into the structure of the book. One thing you can do is to see where the boundaries of each lie and where they do cross over into reality, making associations with the world around you and seeking positive outcomes.
Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments section below.