February 21-27 is annual Freedom To Read Week.
Freedom to Read week is organized by the Freedom of Expression Committee of the Book and Periodical Council . Events are held across the nation, mainly in libraries and schools.
You may be wondering why this week is held. Many Canadians might be surprised to hear that we do not have the freedom to read any book of our choosing. There are books that are banned from entering Canada and every day books are quietly removed from the shelves of libraries and bookstores around the country.
Books that have been held or seized at the border by Canada Customs in the past include:
- The Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
- The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
- The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst
- The Way by John Steinbeck
- Teleny by Oscar Wilde
- A large number of books and magazines about gay and lesbian lifestyles, ironically including Homosexual Oppression and Liberation by Dennis Altman.
Schools and libraries often receive requests that titles be removed from their curriculum and shelves. Books that have been challenged in such a manner in Canada include:
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- The Wars by Timothy Findley
- Dance Me Outside by W.P. Kinsella
- Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
- The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler
- The Diviners by Margaret Laurence
- Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
In celebration of Freedom to Read Week, you can also participate in the ‘Free a Challenged Book’ game. To join in, take one of the challenged books listed above or from the expanded list on the Freedom to Read website. Tag the book with a label that says that the book has been challenged and is being freed into the community. Then leave the book in a public place for somebody else to pick up and enjoy. They can then go to the website BookCrossing and create a journal entry about the book that they found, so you can see how your book has traveled. It is a great way to celebrate our freedom to read these valuable titles.