This week is FREEDOM TO READ WEEK in Canada, 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.”
Because of this celebration in Canada, there are some very interesting blog discussions on the subjects of censorship, challenges to particular books, and other issues that concern all readers. There is also a fun Read-Banned-Books Challenge from the Pelham Public Library in Ontario, Canada. You can check it out at the link below.
My first experience with any kind of restriction on my reading happened when I was eight or nine years old. My family would make weekly trips to the library, and I was a voracious reader. I’d check out a tall stack of books, read them all in one week, and return them on our next trip to the library. For me, the Children’s Section of our library was filled with wonderful books. I read all the Newbery winners and most of the Newbery honor books. I read any books my older brother, Curt, was reading. The many book series were very addicting (still are!), so I read all the Nancy Drew books, the Hardy Boys, the Dana Girls, the Bobbsey Twins, and the Trixie Belden series, to name a few of my favorites. I was particularly fond of an historical fiction series called “We Were There…” which sparked my love of history, I’m sure.
Eventually, I began to feel frustrated by the selection of books in the Children’s Section, and began to yearn for books housed in the Teen Section in an adjoining room. I spent some time exploring that room and found a whole new garden of books. But after a couple of weeks of checking out books from that room, the librarian told me I couldn’t check out any more teen books because I was too young. I was crushed!
I discussed this sad news with my parents, and, although they never told me exactly what happened, I remember that my mother went in to talk with the librarian. After that conversation, I was allowed full access to the Teen Section, and probably to ALL sections of the library.
It was a defining experience for me at a very young age. It had never occurred to me that something so important in my life–the freedom to choose what I want to read–could be taken away or restricted by someone else.
So I will join the Canadians this week in celebrating this very important freedom. I am going to read the new Newbery Award winning book, The Higher Power of Lucky, which is being challenged in numerous communities because the word “scrotum” is on the very first page of the story. And I will also celebrate my enlightened and supportive parents who instilled in me the love of reading and then defended my right to choose my own pathway through the world of books.