Freedom to Read Week: Liberating literature

By Johnathan Houle – Special to The Record
Freedom to Read Week: Liberating literature
(Photo : Matthew McCully)

Freedom to Read Week is an annual event created by the Book and Periodical Council to promote and support intellectual freedom. With the increase in challenges made to books in the late 1970s, the first Freedom to Read Week was organized and held in 1984 and created as a promotional campaign to publicize the issue to those outside of the industry. “The committee came together to combat this erosion of the freedom to access written works,” explained Michelle Arbuckle, a librarian and representative of the Book and Periodical Council. “Freedom of expression is one of our rights as Canadians and should be cherished and protected.”

“In Canada, we tend to have this feeling that, these things don’t happen here. However, it does happen here,” explained Arbuckle. Unbeknownst to many Canadians, books are still being challenged today by groups or individuals who deem certain content inappropriate. “The type of books that have been challenged the most are children’s books,” said Arbuckle. “It’s usually an attempt to control what children can or can’t read and often done out of fear or an attempt to protect children.” Literature classics or even books like the Harry Potter series have been challenged in the past due to concern over their content. “I have had kids say that they weren’t allowed to read Harry Potter by their parents,” said Judith Munger, librarian at Alexander Galt Regional High School. Though it does not happen often, and she respects their decision, she finds the limitations placed on these children saddening, saying “Children should have access to what they want to read.”
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