Freedom to Read Week 2022

(IvanPais, 2016)

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.

(American Library Association, 2020)

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)

(Doungtepro, 2020)

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.”

References

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.

Time for Brew Monday! Get your tea steeping and your connection ready!

For those of you who have never heard of Blue Monday, it is supposedly the most depressing day of the year, occurring on the third Monday in January. What a lot of people don’t know about Blue Monday is that the man who coined the term, and did the research to narrow down this exact date, never intended for the day to become negative. It was actually identified with the intention to encourage people to take the time to find the positives in the “gloomiest day of the year” and remember that the beginning of a new year is a wonderful time to begin other things too; it’s an opportunity for change and fresh starts (Peat, 2018).

(Altman, 2018)

We all know 2020 was a weird year. And 2021 is off to an odd start too- but I promise I’m not here to tell you these are “unprecedented times.” You know they are, you’re living them! I AM here to tell you that just because things are strange right now, different from what we have come to expect out of our day-to-day, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the college experience of community… it just means we have an opportunity to get a bit creative in how we enjoy these experiences. And what better time to get creative in finding a little spot of happy than Blue Monday?

Since we can’t enjoy the fresh beginning of meeting new people around campus the way we could other years we are bringing it online with “Brew Monday”.

“Brew Monday” is a play on the term “Blue Monday”, which occurs on January 18th this year. It is a chance to connect MHC students with each other! And maybe an excuse to drink more tea/coffee… (haha- BREW Monday, get it?)

(Stokpic, 2014)

Sooooo… what exactly happens? On Monday, January 18, from 11 AM – 2 PM, virtual rooms will be set up via Blackboard Collaborate, each dedicated to a special interest or topic. All you need to do is find access to a computer or laptop with webcam and microphone capabilities where you can open Blackboard Collaborate. Then make your favourite tea or coffee, and come back here to the Chapter One Blog! A list of topics and meeting rooms will be posted and you can select your connection!

Together let’s make Blue Monday a little less blue 😊 and all about creating more connections! We hope to see you there! Find your connection points and times below!

JANUARY 18 @TOPICS & INTERESTS
11:00AM-NOONMature Student Experience And Parenting
NOON-12:30PMBaking! Because Who Doesn’t Love Food!
NOON-1:00PMCatching Up With All Things True Crime
NOON-1:00PMFinding New Worlds To Explore In Books And Movies
1:00PM-2:00PMDogs, Dogs, And More Dogs! Bring Your Dog!
1:00PM-2:00PMGet Lost In The Fun Of Board Games And Card Games
1:00PM-2:00PMPositivity, Focus, And Making Your Beveridge Work For YOU!

References

Altman, G. (2018, March 24). Time for Change. Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/photos/change-new-beginning-risk-road-3256330/

Peat, J. (2018, January 5). Man who coined the term ‘Blue Monday’ apologises for making January more depressing. Retrieved from Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/blue-monday-apology-depressing-january-misey-money-disposable-income-psychology-dr-cliff-arnall-a8143246.html

Stokpic. (2014, October 24). Woman Drinking Coffee. Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/photos/woman-drinking-coffee-person-601568/

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/