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Charter for the Reader


In our conviction that books are outstandingly effective in transmitting knowledge and communicationg ideas, that reading encourages the fullest develpoment of thought and the participation of the citizen in society


noting the widespread concern about educational standards all over the world and the failure to eradicate global illiteracy, giving rise to social deprivation,

we reassert that reading is a universal right.

Reading influences our lives in many aspects:

1. Cultural and scientific

reading, not only of books but of all printed texts, is the key to our cultural and scientific heritage.

2. Social

Effective reading is a prerequisite for full participation in modern society.

3. Economic

Reading skills make a key contribution to economic success. Industrial corporations investlarge sums in training staff to improve their communication skills, especially reading. New technologies demand a wider range of literacy-related competencies, the lack of which seriously impedes progress.

4. Democratic

In a democratic society, with a free exchange of information, the printed word is an essential element in an individual's critical capacity. It is the most effective medium for ensuring that pluralist views prevalent in that society. Democracy depends on well-informed people.

5. Individual Creativity

reading is crucial for an individual's personal development and his or her focus on the outside world and on other people. Reading is also a good leisure activity (it keeps the mind and imagination active) and, if necessary, provides the opportunity to escape from daily cares, to develop and refine on one's inner life, and keep on extending one's horizons. The development of imagination from early childhood on, through books cannot be overestimated.

If the right to read is to become universal, certain conditions must be fulfilled.

Early encounters

The success or failure of learning to read and the nature of lifetime reading habits are largely determined by the individual's earliest experiences with books.

A love of reading is best acuired at the pre-schook stage when parents help their children to discover their first books by reading aloud and telling stories. This is how reading books becomes an important, familiar and intimate experience, a way of communicating with those who are close, a way of understanding the world and oneself.

When such encounters connot take place in a family setting, efforts should be made to ensure that people (such as childcare works) or institutions (such as libraries, daycare centres, medical centres, schools etc.) are able to offer conditions as close as possible to those offered spontaneously by families.

It is essential that parents and those who work in the field of early childhood are made aware of the importance of first experiences with books and are given recommendations of books most likely to interest children.

Access to books in schools

To facilitate learning to read and reading development in the educational process, so that the abundant and free use of books becomes a natural part of the learning experience, shools must have available an adequate collection of selected books in all areas of the curriculum, both text books issued on a subject basis, and books of wider interest located in a library run by trained and experimented staff. Class libraries, organised by the teacher or the children themselves, can form a valuable addition, though not a substitute.

Teachers should be given adequate training in using books and libraries, so that they can teach others about making the best use of these services and materials. Both text book and voluntary reading in school are important. Every topic in schook must be a book topic, too. In rural areas, as well as in developing countries, schook libraries may also serve as public libraries : where this is the case, additional collections and increased opening hours should be provided to serve all age-groups.

Extracurricular youth education - with books

In extracurricular youth education, the purpose of reading advancement must be to demonstrate how books, reading and literature can be a meaningful and fun leisure-time activity. The advancement of reading should form an integral part of a general cultural arts education for young people.

Support from Governments

Depending on the situation in each country. federal, national, and local governments can all help to provide an environment in which books can flourish. This may include exempting books from sales tax; allowing special provision for libraries, and for books within school funding; avoiding punitive duties in countries dependent on imported books: upholding copyright and outlawing piracy; and at the most general level, providing an economic climate in which publishers and booksellers, particularly new ones, are encouraged to publish and stock a wide range of books. Libraries should be supported by local, regional and national administrations, ensuring a minimum number of libraries with a sufficient stock of books in all areas., If helpful, library laws should be passed.

Support from Publishers

If there is to be a universal appetite for reading, publishers must supply the food to satisfy it. Within normal commercial constraints, they have obligations to both booksellers and readers. Publishers must aim at quality in editorial, production, and service terms. They should use their experience and ingenuity to publish each genre in the most suitable format and at the appropriate price to maximise sales to the intended readership, supporting booksellers through effective promotion. They should keep books in print for a reasonable period so as not to disappoint readers. They should keep books in print for a reasonable period so as sport, music, fashion, and other subjects popularized by the media. They must try to meet socially useful minority needs, if necessary seeking subsidies where publication would otherwise be uneconomic. Special interest groups, as well as general readers, can often be attracted to join the many book clubs provided by some publisheres, and this can be a valued facility.

Support from Booksellers

Booksellers should provide an attractice and comfortable setting for the display and sales of all kinds of books. By doing this they will encourage the piblic to spend time in the shop, particularly during most people's leisure time - the evenings and weekends - and thereby achieve higher sales. Booksellers should ensure that themselves and their staff are knowledgeable about books and authors, and able answer customers' queries. As computer technology becomes more widely available, booksellers should be able to offer a more and more effective information and ordering service.

Children's bookshops or repartments within general bookshops should be made especially welcoming and friendly, with activity areas, so that children will want to visit and revisit the bookshop and so develop the book-buying habit at an early age.

Support from Libraries

Reading should be a lifelong habit. Therefore libraries should offer their services to all age groups. Teenagers need special attention since many abandon voluntary reading at this stage in their lives. their lives. Their introduction to a wider range of books, compatible with their changing interests, should be encouraged by librarians and others who are aware of their psychological and emotional growth.

Books should be available and accessible wherever and whenever they are needed, in schools and workplaces, as well as in leisure-time settings, such as shopping malls and holiday resorts. Library facilities should be provided in these areas, and open for extended periods where possible.

Special attention should be paid to places or situations where books and reading are not ofter present, such as deprived urban areas or prisons; also where people have enforced free time, such as hospitals and retirement homes. Such small reading units and services have to be organized in a local, regional, or national network connected to large libraries so that the small collections may be regularly revised and brought up to date. Working within such a network also gives the staff the opportunity to continue their education.

Support from Writers and translators

Authors are the creative source of all published work, as is recognised by international copyright law. Translators too can fulfill a valuable role by breaking down linguistic and cultural barriers. apart from their fundamental creative importance, authours can help in the promotion of reading through educational and library visits; "writers in residence" schemes and workshops; media intervies; and bookshop appearances including signing sessions.

Support from the Media

Televison, radio, newspapers and magazines are major entertainment and information carriers in modern society. Their treatment of books can be very influential, encouraging their viewers and readers to buy, or borrow from the library, books which are reviewed or featured. It is thous highly desirable that the media should present books in a positive and helpful way, independently of advertising interests, and publishers need to keep closely in touch with the media in order to achieve the maximum publicity for their books, and for readers to be informed and attracted.

The Need for Information

in order to make a responsible choice, the reader needs full information, advice, and orientation. Children and adolescents especially have the greatest need of different kinds of help. For them, the role of teachers, parents, and librarians is essential. New literates and immigrants also need special guidance, as do all kinds of minority groups.


The only way to make books and reading available to everyone, whatever their situation, is for libraries, publishers, and booksellers to work in partnership, joining where necessary with various cultural, educational, and social organisations who engage in the promotion of reading. This 'alliance' of public and private interests offers the best hope of fulfilling universal reading needs.

A reading environment should be created in all types and at all levels of sosiety, beginning at pre-shool age and extending thorough formal, non-formal and life-long education, and embracing all typs of reader including new literates, minority-language groups, imigrants, slow readers and those with poor eyesight.

Books are the memory of mankind - a memory that alone can help mankaind master its future. Books need - books deserve universal interest and support.

With contribution of hens GOTIMER, Genevieve PATTE, carla Maria POESIO, Keith NETTLE, Rolf ZITZLSPERGER. (Draft 3, 19-12-91 + 21-01-92)