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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Freedom to Read Week

Today begins Freedom to Read Week which 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.” 

During this week, visit the website of the Canadian Book and Periodical Council (  It lists 100 publications that have been challenged in Canada in the past decades:  Each challenge sought to limit public access to the works in schools, libraries, or bookstores.  Sometimes challenges succeed and sometimes they fail.  But even if challenges are dismissed and books remain on library shelves or curriculum lists, the effect of a controversy over print material can spread.  For example, often a book with a controversial reputation tends to be quietly dropped from reading lists and curricula.

To mark Freedom to Read Week, the Book and Periodical Council has prepared a list of 30 publications which Canadians have tried to remove:  This document makes interesting reading because it discusses specific books and reasons why removals were requested.   Books have been challenged for “morbid, Satanic themes,” “the portrayal of racial minorities,” promoting “an anti-logging viewpoint,” “the depiction of wizardry and magic,” profane language, descriptions of sex scenes, and depicting a character who “challenges adult authority.”

For an American perspective on this issue, check out the website of the American Library Association which has extensive lists of banned/challenged books:  Often very popular novels are challenged:

Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, died two days ago.  Her much-loved novel is also one of the most challenged:

Celebrate the freedom to read by reading a banned/challenged book!