The freedom to read includes the freedom to choose books some would consider distasteful, librarians with the Okanagan Regional Library say.
The week of Feb. 26 to March 3 has been designated Freedom to Read Week in Canada.
“It reminds us to remain diligent in protecting our right to free expression,” said Caroline McKay, a librarian at the Summerland branch.
She said librarians regularly receive requests to pull certain books from the shelves, for a variety of reasons.
At times this is because of vulgarity or coarse language in a book while other requests are about the treatment of specific minorities or ethnic groups.
McKay said standards for censorship or book challenges have been changing over the years.
The most recent targets have been J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, over concerns about witchcraft and sorcery.The TinTin series of books has also come under attack because of inappropriate stereotypes.
Other books and publications which have been challenged in Canada in recent years include Anne Rice’s novel Beauty’s Punishment, the cover image of the September 2010 issue of Rolling Stone and Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographic collection, Certain People: A Book of Portraits.
The following are a few books which have been challenged in recent years.
Guterson, David, Snow Falling on Cedars
In 2006, the Dufferin-Peel (Ont.) Catholic District School Board removed this novel from the library and a Grade 11 English course over concerns about sexual content. In 2007, a committee created to review the book decided to return the novel to school libraries and keep it in the Grade 11 English course.
Lee, Harper, To Kill a Mockingbird
In 2002, black parents and teachers in Yarmouth, Digby and Shelburne, N.S. objected to the novel as well as Barbara Smucker’s Underground to Canada and John Ball’s In the Heat of the Night.
The director of education of the tri-county school board ordered the withdrawal of the books pending a ruling by the school board, but the order was rescinded and the books were restored.
In 1993, a principal in Hamilton, Ont. removed the novel from the Grad 10 core reading list after a complaint from a parent.
In 1991, a black community group asked Saint John (N.B.) School District 20 to withdraw this book and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn from reading lists.
Paterson, Katherine, Bridge to Terabithia
In 2006, a parent challenged the book at the Ottawa Catholic School Board. The objection was over the words “pervert,” “lordy” and “see-through blouse” in the novel.
The principal reported the challenge to the school board’s Derry Bryne Teacher Resource Centre. Librarians at the centre did not proceed with the complaint but suggested the teacher give the student another book to read.
Morgan, Allen, Matthew and the Midnight Flood
In 2006, a parent challenged this illustrated children’s fantasy book at the Edmonton Public Library. In the story, a stranger visits the boy’s bedroom window in the middle of the night and asks the boy to accompany him. The boy agrees because the invitation sounds like fun.
The book was retained and there was no change to its status.
Patterson, Richard North, Silent Witness
In 2003, this adult crime novel was challenged at the Toronto Public Library.
The objection was the descriptions of rape and murder. The library retained the copy.
Richler, Mordecai, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
This novel has been challenged at several times over the years. In 1982, the Etobicoke (Ont.) Board of Education was asked to ban the book from the high school curriculum and in 1990 a complaint at the Essex County (Ont.) Board of Education led to the establishment of a written policy to deal with such objections.
In both cases, the book was not withdrawn.
Rowling, J.K., Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
In 2000, the Durham (Ont.) Board of Education received numerous complaints about the Harry Potter books being read in classrooms.
The concerns came because parents were concerned about wizardry, witchcraft and magic in the books and that these activities are inappropriate for students.
The administration withdrew the books from the classroom but left them in school libraries, Several months later, the board rescinded its decision to remove the books.
Wilder, Laura Ingalls, On the Banks of Plum Creek
In 1997, two parents in the Fort Garry School Division in Winnipeg complained about the book because of references offensive to aboriginals.
A committee of teachers, parents and others in the community prepared to examine the complaint, but the complaint was later withdrawn.