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Freedom to Read by Bev Cumming

26 Nov 2021 8:44 AM | Anonymous

Freedom to Read

by Bev Cumming

“Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.”
― Laurie Halse Anderson

As a life-long reader, it made sense that I could morph from my Phys. Ed. background into a Junior High Librarian/English Teacher.  My goal was to help kids want to read for pleasure, for information and for an understanding of their world. Through analysis, response, and discussion these teenagers became more confident critical thinkers.  As long as they were reading anything – cereal boxes, magazines, comic books, short stories, essays, poetry or novels they were tuned into the power of the written word.

Imagine my dismay when I noticed a recent headline in the Calgary Herald EVERY BOOK IN EVERY LIBRARY .  The story went on to describe how an Ontario school board is hunting for harmful books to  “cull” from school library shelves. Challenging and banning of books is not new and Canada is not free from this alarming practice.  Individuals or groups who challenge books are obviously uncomfortable with their message.  You may be familiar with a few of the books they are challenging.  Harry Potter series ( witchcraft & sorcery ), To Kill a Mocking Bird (language & racial themes ), Lord of the Flies ( violence & language ), Are you there, God?  It’s me, Margaret ( religion & puberty ).  

Another controversial book often challenged is Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451  (the title is the temperature at which paper burns) and  was published in 1953.  Set in the future, it is about book burning and censorship.  The people in this society do not “read books, enjoy nature, spend time by themselves, think independently, or have meaningful conversations. Instead, they drive very fast, watch excessive amounts of television on wall-size sets, and listen to the radio on “Seashell Radio” sets attached to their ears.”  Does any of this sound familiar? The controversy -   words like “hell” and “damn” are inappropriate and objectionable!  What about burning books like the Nazis did in the 1930’s? The whole idea should scare all of us.

Historically, there have been times when possession of banned books has been considered an act of treason or heresy and could result in prison, torture, and even death. Today, Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, guaranteed to them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  

Even the Bible and the works of Shakespeare have been banned over the years.

I agree with the person who said that author, “ . . . must be a great writer if the school board is scared of her.”  I believe that a discerning reader is better able to judge what is right for them when not shielded from access to diverse ideas by small- minded groups. So let’s continue to read, thinking critically before accepting or rejecting the ideas presented in books and enjoy your freedom to do so!

You can see a historical overview on this website 


  • 26 Nov 2021 4:24 PM | Kathy Newman
    This is an important concern, Bev. Thanks for bringing it to our attention in your well written Blog!
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