Reading is a Right

Reading is a Right

By Steacy Pinney, CEO, Calgary Reads

When a child is hungry, we give them a sandwich. When a child is cold, we give them a jacket. When a child has big feelings about going hungry or cold, what do we give them? When their basic needs—and rights—have been met, how do we give them the other nourishment and warmth that they need to thrive in school and in life?

On this National Child Day, we want to share that books and reading are a child’s right, just as much as a home and a coat and a bowl of cereal in the morning.

Children have the basic human right to read

Being able to move from learning to read, to reading to learn is the only way a child can succeed in school and beyond school. Reading, therefore, is a child’s fundamental right.

As educators and caring adults, children need us to ensure they have the one-on-one learning help and their very own books to ‘crack the code’ and become joyful, confident readers.

The human brain is not inherently wired to read the way it inherently knows how to eat and breathe, run and cry. Children need coaching at school and at home. They need us to take this time for them and stand up for this right.

If a child in your life is a struggling reader, they have a right to more help until they can achieve the goal of reading at grade level in Grade 3, which is when students are expected to use their reading skills to learn more and more complex subjects.

Children have the right to choose what they read, and read for pleasure for extended periods

Maybe your son has an affection for Dogman or Captain Underpants and you wish it were Little House on the Prairie. Throw out the idea of choosing for them. The goal with young readers is to hook them on reading. If there is a subject or series that they love and want to spend time reading, goodness, let them read it!

Once they develop a love for reading, and therefore become stronger and stronger readers, they’ll find their way to more cultivated titles in their own good time.

Children have the right to read texts that mirror their experiences and languages, and provide windows into our diverse world

One of the silver linings of this last year has been an incredible appetite for children’s books about Indigenous culture. We’ve loved sharing titles that help non-First Nations children better understand this part of our past. We’ve loved seeing the list of titles grow, so that Indigenous children can see their culture and their language on the page, and feel proud.

Stories can be one of our best tools to help children open up about tough experiences, and feel hope—and they have a right to that, too.

Children have the right to their very own books, and to access text in print and digital format

For a child, having their very own book is a powerful early step in becoming a reader. And yet, one in four homes in Canada has no books at all. If children need to read to succeed, then they have a right to their very own books.

They also have a right to experience books in both formats. Turning the page, placing a finger on a typed letter and reading left to right and top to bottom ignites learning and feeling that is deep and resonant. And yet, there are times when getting a child a book, regardless of the medium, is more important, and digital access bring benefits.

These are just some of the ways in which reading is a child’s right. We encourage you to learn more and always look for ways to help children enjoy reading.

Calgary Reads is an early literacy organization changing the lives of children and their families through reading. Join us in creating change by helping children get their very own books, adults who can cuddle up and read with them, and safe, fun reading spaces. Visit or to learn more.