Reading is Freedom

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Sunday, February 25th marks the beginning of Freedom to Read Week, an opportunity for Canadians to celebrate their right to intellectual freedom, which is the right to read information from any source, regardless of point of view. One way this right is frequently disputed is by individuals challenging and banning books. You may hear the phrase “banned books” and think, “surely that is a thing of the past! This is Canada, where we are free to read what we like.” You may be surprised to hear that there are “challenges” to many publications (when someone believes a book should be banned from a certain place, or from everywhere!). These often occur in school or public libraries by parents, as the main concern is often age-inappropriateness for children, such as sexual content and offensive language.

Here are some examples of books that have been challenged/banned in Canada. These are only a small sample of the many books that are challenged, and indeed a small sample of times that these books have been challenged!

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was challenged in 2008 in Toronto: a parent believed it should not be used in a Grade 12 English class because of “‘profane language,’ anti-Christian overtones, ‘violence’ and ‘sexual degradation.'” It was kept in the curriculum. Get it from OC.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson is one of the most frequently challenged books in North America for reasons such as profane language, religious concerns such as promoting witchcraft and disrespecting adults, and the book’s sad ending.  In 2006 in Ottawa, a parent challenged the use of Bridge to Terabithia in classrooms, but it remained. Get it from OC.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell has been challenged frequently at public school libraries due to homosexual themes. In one instance in 2006, it was removed from a library in the Calgary Catholic School District; in other cases, it has been removed, moved to an adult section of the library, or kept despite parent complaints. Get it from ORL.

To celebrate Freedom to Read Week, check out the official website, take a look at the campus library displays, and – most importantly – read a banned book!  (

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