Freedom to Read Week

Yesterday marked the official start of Freedom to Read Week- running from February 23-29!

This may have you wondering- what is this week for? After all, it seems like it would be a pretty rare thing to hear someone tell you NOT to read.

However, Freedom to Read Week isn’t really about being stopped from reading. It’s actually to bring awareness to the limiting of reading options available to us, often without us even being aware of it.

I hate to break the hard news: censorship and the banishment of books is still -somehow- a thing that happens all over the world. 


Figure 1. Outdoor reader; female (Pixabay, 2016)

Some examples include:
>And Tango Makes Three, By Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell was removed from a Calgary elementary school library shelf in 2017 for the “theme of homosexual parenting.” (Council, 2020)

(Can be found in our library here: PZ 10.3 R52 2005)

>The Lord of the Rings series, by J.R.R. Tolkien was burned in New Mexico in 2001 for being “satanic” (Association, Banned & Challenged Classics, 2020)

(The prequel to the series, The Hobbit, can be found in our library here: PR 6039 O32 H644 1995)

>The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was banned and challenged in various locations in 2018 for “sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint” (Association, Top Ten Most Challenged Books Lists, 2020)

(Can be found in our library here: PZ 7 A38 Abs 2007)

>I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
was challenged in various locations in 2017 because it “addresses gender identity.” (Association, Top Ten Most Challenged Books Lists, 2020)

(Can be found in our library here: PZ 7.1.H47 Iam 2014 -2017)


Figure 2. Burnt book pages (Pixabay, 2014)

Books are banned and removed from libraries, bookstores, and publishing every day for reasons that are as vast and unique as we are. Unfortunately, this means there are resources out there that people find themselves unable to access.

Now, this may still seem like something that isn’t really a huge deal, and it may not raise concern for you at all. But it absolutely should. 

The more books and magazines are censored, banned and made difficult to access, the more your rights are restricted. Removing our choice to read something, because certain groups disagree with its opinions or themes, is extremely limiting to every single one of us.

A book can be challenged for religious themes just as often as another book can be challenged for anti-religious themes. And it’s the same story for every topic you can imagine.

Taking resources out of our reach for whatever reason means we lose the opportunity to explore a unique perspective- and authors lose a chance to share their voice. If the only books that are allowed to exist are books that are deemed non-offensive by every single person- we would have no books. There are not many stories (if any) in this world that can be written without offending someone, somewhere.

Figure 3. Pink glasses on open books (Pixabay, 2019)

So with this all in mind I want to encourage you – during this week and always – to read. Read everything that you have an interest in. Read textbooks, and comics, and novels, and magazines, and articles. Soak up every story and opinion and fact that you can and argue when these resources are removed from your reach. Freedom to read is accentuated during this week, but we should fight for it always. More information can be found at https://www.freedomtoread.ca/

Go forth and read, readers. 😊

References

(2014). [Online Image]. Retrieved from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/book-pages-burnt-burning-old-406806/

(2016). [Online Image]. Retrieved from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/beautiful-dress-girl-outdoors-1868725/

(2019). [Online Image]. Retrieved from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/glasses-reading-book-books-focus-4704055/

Association, A. L. (2020). Banned & Challenged Classics. Retrieved from ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/classics

Association, A. L. (2020). Top Ten Most Challenged Books Lists. Retrieved from ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10

Council, C. B. (2020). Challenged Works. Retrieved from freedom to read: https://www.freedomtoread.ca/challenged-works/