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COLUMN: Acknowledging the freedom to read

We provide full access to material that some might find objectionable

There aren’t many guarantees in life.

If you want something, most of the time you have to go out and work for it.

Your intellectual freedom for example, which is guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is still not a given.

Even to this day, there are forces that want to take those rights and freedoms away.

Don’t believe me? Each year there are hundreds of attempts to remove and ban books from the shelves of public libraries, schools and universities.

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The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood was challenged because of an objection to the profane language, violence and anti-Christian overtones.

The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas was challenged due to drug use, profanity, and sexual references.

The children’s picture book, Bedtime for Frances, by Russell Hoban had a complaint from a parent who thought it promoted “bad bedtime behaviours.”

This individual had an objection to the story, so they thought that nobody else should be allowed to read it, and fought hard to have it removed from bookshelves.

Public libraries are advocates for the opposite of this type of censorship. We provide full access to material that some might find objectionable.

The charter protects the rights of Canadians to read whatever they want.

One of the most challenged books in history is Alvin Shwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, published in 1981.

This selection of short horror stories for middle school aged children has been banned for “disturbing subject matter and violence.”

Patrons are queued up to read this book, even after all these years.

An older, but still popular series with children is Goosebumps, by R.L Stine.

These chapter books are requested and checked out on a regular basis.

Rather than instilling children with fear, scary stories allow them to face the fears they already have, and remind them that everything is going to be fine.

Banning books like this squashes an opportunity to grow.

That is why public libraries across the nation celebrate your right to read with Freedom to Read week, from Feb. 23 to 29.

Their website states, “Censorship does not protect society; it smothers creativity and precludes open debate of controversial issues.”

Don’t take for granted the fact that you will always have a right to read whatever you want. There are still books being challenged and banned in Canada.

The best way to support your guaranteed right of intellectual freedom is to stop by the public library and read a challenged book.

You will always find them on our bookshelves, and librarians will fervently fight for your right to read them.

Visit the Summerland library during Freedom to Read week and browse through our display of (unsuccessfully attempted) banned books.

Caroline McKay is the Community Librarian at the Summerland Branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.

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