The right to read will be upheld at the special Freedom to Read event on Thursday, March 1, 7 p.m at the Nelson Public Library.
Reading from banned or challenged books are several notable Nelsonites and avid booklovers, include Chief of Police Paul Burkhart, educator and actor Geoff Burns, children’s author Cyndi Sand-Eveland, and Chief Librarian Tracey Therrien, among others.
The challenge of books for their right to be read goes back centuries. Shakespeare’s King Lear was banned from the London stage for decades; Jack London’s books were burned by the Nazis; the current U.S. president attempted to block publication of an unflattering book.
In Canada, most challenges are directed at public and school libraries, and include everything from Harry Potter to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood— a novel that portrays the systematic removal of freedoms, including reading. Canada’s Book and Periodical Council has been building awareness of the precariousness around free access to literature through its annual Freedom the Read Week at the end of February for many years.
Filmmaker Amy Bohigian and her partner, poet Jane Byers chose the book And Tango Makes Three, a picture book based on a true story about two male penguins raising a baby penguin at New York’s Central Park Zoo—and one of the most challenged books in the last 10 years.
“It came out around the same time we decided to start a family through adoption, so you can imagine it was an important book to have on our shelves,” says Amy. “We are participating in Freedom to Read because our visibility has and will always be the one thing that breaks boundaries with fearful people.”
Greg Maslak and his son Jake are regulars the Library’s Parent-Son Book Club. They’ve chosen to read from Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, challenged by a parent in Ottawa because of the presence of certain words deemed objectionable (it was not removed from Catholic School libraries).
“For us, Freedom to Read means the right to challenge our minds and exercise our intellects to their fullest,” says Greg.
The Library expects a lively evening that presents food for thought about access to books and the freedom to read. Presenters have been asked to choose from a list of 100 books for children, teens, and adults that have been banned or challenged in Canada. More information about Freedom to Read week can be found at freedomtoread.ca.