Awareness raised about 'challenged' books
People's freedom to read certain books and magazines is being challenged in Canada.
In 2010, there were 92 challenged books, magazines and other resources according to the Canadian Library Association.
The Vancouver Island Regional Library is hosting events to raise awareness about the issue during Freedom to Read Week (Feb. 26 to March 3).
The Freedom to Read website says books, magazines and newspapers have been challenged to limit public access to the publications in schools, libraries, bookstores and elsewhere. Some challenges were upheld and others overturned.
It is a complicated issue and is often hard to track because challenges are often localized not nationwide events, said Terri Doughty, an English professor at Vancouver Island University.
Challenges include the popular Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, which was objected to because some felt it glorified witchcraft, said Doughty. The book And Tango Make Three, by authors Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, is based on a real story about two male penguins in a zoo raising a baby penguin, but was objected to because it depicted an alternative family structure.
Doughty and some VIU students will read from challenged books Saturday (March 3) from 2-4 p.m. at the Wellington branch. The Harbourfront VIRL branch hosts events over the next two weeks.
Maria Bassett, a VIU student reading at the Wellington branch event, said if books are challenged and removed from shelves of schools and libraries, kids are “losing the opportunity to read some great literature and great stories.”
Books are challenged for a variety of issues, including objections from a religious point of view or concerns about age-inappropriate material in school curriculum, said Doughty.
In a multicultural country, there is diversity in family values and it’s a difficult issue because people have the right to protest what they feel is inappropriate or offensive material, but it sometimes infringes on other people’s rights for free access to information, she said.
“It’s the new human rights challenge – people exercising one of their rights to protest material available will be infringing on other people’s rights,” said Doughty. “It’s kind of a mixed bag that causes the challenges and it’s not easy to demonize a person who challenges a book.”
Meg Rintoul, library manager at the VIRL Wellington branch, said she doesn’t know of a case where a book has been pulled from library shelves.
The public library tries to have something for everyone, she said, adding that the libraries don’t have any pornography or anything criminal, and if it is more erotic in nature it is indicated in the catalogue and people can determine for themselves if they want to check it out.
“We are not trying to create a level of censorship. It’s up to them, the customer, whether they want to read or view it,” said Rintoul.
People might not realize books are being challenged in Canada, but it’s often because people don’t hear about it, Rintoul said.
“Maybe sometimes we are a little complacent in Canada and don’t think it happens here,” she said.
Freedom to Read Week events
Friday March 2, 3 p.m., Harbourfront library hosts a Dungeon and Dragons roleplaying session.
Saturday, March 3, 2-4 p.m., Wellington branch hosts reading session by VIRL staff and VIU students of challenged books.
Saturday, March 3, Young Adult Book Club meets at 2 p.m. for ages 13-18. Attendees are invited to bring their favourite book to share.
Wednesday, March 7, 10 a.m. Harbourfront branch children’s author Dianna Bonder reads from books such as Leon’s Song and Dogabet.
March 8, Adult Book Club meets at 6:30 p.m. at Harbourfront branch to discuss books.