Today marks the start of Freedom to Read week, something that means a lot to me as an advocate of literacy, and the right for everyone to access any and all information.
On the website for FTR they state, “Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
I believe that Canadians (and all people) have the right to read all materials and there shouldn’t be barriers to access. Fortunately in Canada there haven’t been as many challenges to books as there are in other places such as the United States, but they do still happen. Click the link below to see a list of challenge materials in Canada over the past few decades.
The materials listed include Harry Potter, The Handmaids Tale, and Go Ask Alice; three books that I personally have read and loved and I am sure that you will recognize many of the others on the list as well.
Some of my favourites on these lists include the children’s story “And Tango Makes Three” the adorable and true story of two male penguins in a New York Zoo who become a couple and get given an baby penguin of their own. This book has been challenged for homosexual messages and this book was removed from a Calgary School District library in 2006.
“Harry Potter” is of course a book that almost everyone knows and one that has been challenged many times throughout the years and were removed from a Newfoundland Elementary School in 2000. What really amuses me about this story is that, “the parent and the principal had not bothered to read the novels.” Over and over again this theme is present in the challenging of books where the person making the challenge has never read the book itself, only heard “bad” things about it.
While I fully believe that those who challenge books only have the well-being and love of the readers in mind, that is also why librarians and those wanting freedom of information are fighting for people to be able to access all materials. Libraries are a democratic institution, set up to provide information to everyone who needs it.
If all the books that people had problems with were removed from library shelves there wouldn’t be much left. Though there has never been more access to information due to the internet, with “alternative facts” and “fake news” libraries more than ever need to celebrate the truth and share it with their communities.
Check out what your public library is doing for Freedom to Read Week this week and join in conversations about why everyone has the right to information.
Freedom to read can never be taken for granted. Even in Canada, a free country by world standards, books and magazines are banned at the border. Books are removed from the shelves in Canadian libraries, schools and bookstores every day. Free speech on the Internet is under attack. Few of these stories make headlines, but they affect the right of Canadians to decide for themselves what they choose to read.
Read more about Freedom to Read Week here