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/