Pretty soon we enter 2022’s Freedom to Read Week, running from February 20th-26th!
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Freedom to Read Week is an annual event all about bringing awareness to something that tends to sneak up on us… censorship. Censorship is when information is restricted or suppressed to prevent some – or all of us – from accessing it. The more that books and resources are censored, banned and made difficult to access, the more our rights are restricted. After all, who has the right to tell you what you can and can’t read?
This might have you wondering: “Why would anyone want to censor or ban a book in the first place?” To be honest with you, there’s no simple answer. People request the removal or restriction of books for infinite amounts of reasons. One person may find a book to be too religious, and the next may find the same book to be not religious enough. Even books you might find harmless, ones you grew up with, could have been banned or challenged in one or many libraries around the world.
The problem is: when resources are removed from libraries, it means that we lose the opportunity to explore a unique perspective and authors lose the chance to share their voice. This is already a huge issue in itself, and only becomes more problematic when you take into account that a large portion of books being banned are centered around characters belonging to LGBTQ2+ and BIPOC communities. A good example of this is what is currently occurring in Texas, where books with diverse characters and themes are being targeted specifically for removal. An article from NBC news highlights that: “in many instances, parents and GOP politicians have flagged books about racism and LGBTQ issues that don’t include explicit language, including some picture books about Black historical figures and transgender children.” (Hixenbaugh, 2022)
Removing books with diverse characters and themes removes not only an opportunity to gain understanding of others and the things they go through, but representation of these groups- who are already underrepresented. And while it may seem that the attention attracted by the BLM movement, Every Child Matters, and Pride events are encouraging more diversity to be brought into our books, ABC’s article reminds us that: “Children’s books written by authors of color in 2020 increased by 3% to 26.8% compared with 2019. Children’s books written about racially diverse characters or subjects, however, grew by only 1% to 30%, according to preliminary data provided to The Associated Press by the CCBC, which has been tracking statistics on children’s book representation since 1985.” (Fernando, 2021) Slow progress may be progress… but when these books are removed from libraries and schools it’s significantly less progress than we need.
Here at MHC we are lucky enough to have access to a variety of books that have been banned, challenged, and even burned in other places around the world! So take this opportunity to read what many cannot, and raise your voice in protest when anyone tries to remove them from your grasp!
Every day, but especially during months dedicated to under-represented populations such as Black History Month, we at the Library look for diversity, inclusivity, and equity! This week, for Freedom to Read, we have highlighted those books that embody this so well.
If you are looking for a place to start, check out our reading lists here: https://mhc.ab.libguides.com/FreedomToReadWeek2022
Or Visit https://www.freedomtoread.ca/ to find articles on censorship and lists of banned books!
As librarian Jo Godwin said: “A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.”
IvanPais. (2016, February 2). [Online image] PixaBay. https://pixabay.com/photos/book-notebook-learning-learn-1171564/
American Library Association. (2020). Banned Books Free Downloads. https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/bannedbooksweek/ideasandresources/freedownloads
Hixenbaugh, M. (2022, February 1). Banned: Books on race and sexuality are disappearing from Texas schools in record numbers. NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/texas-books-race-sexuality-schools-rcna13886
Doungtepro. (2020, July 15). [Online image] PixaBay. https://pixabay.com/photos/praying-bible-reading-bible-worship-5406270/
Fernando, C. (2021, March 16). Racial diversity in children’s books grows, but slowly. ABC News: https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/racial-diversity-childrens-books-grows-slowly-76487798#:~:text=A%202019%20diversity%20baseline%20survey,to%20get%20around%20those%20barriers.