Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that every Canadian has, among other things, the fundamental freedom of “thought, belief, opinion, and expression.” Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom. We have a right to choose what we read, and the courts alone have the authority to restrict these materials.
The Gibsons & District Public Library celebrates Freedom to Read with two special events. On Tuesday, Feb. 27, 7-8:30pm, we invite youth (ages 12+) and adults to discuss “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry”, by Mildred D. Taylor. Published in 1976, the novel explores life in southern Mississippi and the impact of racism from the perspective of Cassie Logan, an African-American child. The book won the Newbery Medal in 1977, but continues to be challenged by school boards and others for reasons ranging from “racial bias” to concerns over “age-appropriateness.” In 2002, more than 35 years after publication, it made the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books. To participate in this intergenerational book club, pre-register by calling the library. Copies of the book will be available mid-month.
On Wednesday, Feb. 21, 6-7:30 p.m., we invite people of all ages to share a five-minute excerpt from a banned or censored book at our Freedom to Read Open Mic, hosted by Janice Williams. For a long list of challenged books, visit FreedomtoRead.ca. Participants can sign up to read at the event. “Is this event appropriate for children?” you may ask. Now that is an interesting question. Yes, there will be mature content at this event; at the Gibsons Public Library we leave it up to parents to monitor what materials and experiences their children are exposed to. Some of you may recall the Surrey School Board’s legal battle to maintain its 1997 ban of three picture books that portrayed same-sex parents, a battle they finally lost in 2002 in the Supreme Court of Canada. But many challenges to children’s books continue, individuals or organizations citing inappropriate sexuality, use of language or violence. Other times, books are challenged on the grounds that they promote racist stereotypes, sexism or antisemitism, and sometimes an individual simply wants a book gone because the punctuation and grammar is, like, sloppy or something? Whatever you choose to read, you’ve got a right to read it.
See you at the library..