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.

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/

Freedom To Read Week!

Freedom to read week is upon us! But what does that really mean? This exciting annual event is focused on reminding us that, as Canadians and those living in Canada, we have the freedom to read what we want, when we want! And that is something to get excited for!

white paper with yeah signage
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 Put on by the Canadian freedom of expression committee, Canada Freedom to Read is all about celebrating the books the have been challenged and/or banned. The big question the week poses for everyone is why were these books challenged and/or banned in the first place? Was it legitimate or illegitimate? Even regular books, ones you grew up loving or we`re recently introduced to by family or friends, might have been banned, including:

  • To kill a mockingbird- Harper Lee
  • Harry Potter- JK Rowling`s
  • The Golden Compass- Philip Pullman
  • The Kite Runner- Khaled Hosseini
  • Habibi- Craig Thompson
  • Looking for Alaska- John Green
  • Captain Underpants- Dav Pikey
  • Hunger Ganes- Suzanne Collins
  • Bone- Jeff Smith
  • The Glass Castle- Jeanette Walls
  • Uncle Bobbys Wedding- Sarah S Brennan
  • The Earth, My butt and other big round things- Carolyn Macker
pile of covered books
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Freedom to read week is centered on the question that while any book can be challenged for any number of reasons (offensive language, mature or graphic content, differences in ideological, theological or political positions and alternative perspectives), who has the right to stop you from reading? Though we enjoy the right year round, this week is about appreciating that even though a person disagrees with a book you are still entitled to read it! Sadly, there is a very long list of books that have been banned. Lucky for us, we have ability to read them if we want! So we took a look at the list and pick out some titles for your growing stack of TBR (to be read)!

woman reading a book
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

While there`s certainly no shortage of Challenged and banned books to choose from– The ALA releases a list of the top 10 most challenged books each years and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund maintains a list of challenged comics  –the following titles have been banned by various school and libraries across North America. (Bennett, 2018, Para 7)

11 Banned books that CBC Recommends

https://www.cbc.ca/books/11-canadian-books-that-have-been-challenged-1.4311368

EPL great article about Banned books

https://www.epl.ca/blogs/post/banned-books/EPL

Sources Cited

Bennett, M (2018, February 8). 7 Books You Never Knew Were Banned [Web log post] Retrived from https://www.epl.ca/blogs/post/banned-books/