Engaging Teens in ‘Freedom to Read’ Week

Books
Freedom to Read Week draws attention to “banned books”  (Photo credit: henry…)

February 24th -March 2nd, 2013 is ‘Freedom to Read Week’ in Canada. Started as a project by the Book and Periodical Council (an organization for groups involved in the publication industry in Canada), it is intended to raise awareness and discussion about the intellectual freedoms we enjoy within our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It also challenges Canadians to think critically about the subject of censorship in Canada and the world, both in the past and present. Teens may find this a subject or issue they have never considered before.

Participating libraries and other centres across Canada are joining in by planning censored-book displays, inviting storytellers  to speak on the issue of censorship, and challenging teens to engage in the message of “freedom to read”.

Toronto events include:

  • Censored: A “challenged-books” display at Type Books ( February 18th– March 4th,883 Queen Street)
  • Too Many Secrets: A discussion about open government with journalist Paul Knox (February26th, 7-9pm  at the Lillian H. Smith Library, 239 College Street)
  • Censored: Tales True and Personal: Six storytellers share their experiences with censorship and the freedom to read (February 28th, 7pm at The Garrison, 1197 Dundas Street West)
  • Celebrate our Freedom to Read!! : A celebration of freedom of expression, hosted by Toronto poet laureate George Elliott Clarke and writers Katherine Govier and Joy Kogawa. The evening will include readings from authors, discussion about the state of freedom of expression in Canada, and an open mic for readings from banned books (March 1st, 5:30pm  at the Hart House Library, 7 Hart House Circle)

Another way to engage in the theme of the week is to start your own “banned books club”. While freedom of expression is enshrined in our Charter, many books continue to be challenged by interest groups across the country. Many books that were removed from libraries in the past are now considered classics. Reading from these lists can generate some very thought-provoking discussions surrounding historical context, themes, and reasons for a book’s controversy. High school aged students can benefit from the critical reading skills and questioning strategies that come from engaging in discussion around “banned books”, and the thought of reading what was once “forbidden” is sometimes too good to resist!

Some well-known or classic books that have been banned or objected to in different parts of the world include:

  • Animal Farm, George Orwell
  • Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  • The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  • The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown
  • Catch 22, Joseph Heller
  • and many more

Engaging in discussion surrounding previously censored books is a good way for teens to think about how rights are enforced and perceived in the world around them. (And enjoy a new novel at the same time!)

For more information about Freedom to Read Week, visit the Book and Periodic Council’s event website at www.freedomtoread.ca  For a list of books that have been challenged within Canada, visit the section: http://www.freedomtoread.ca/challenged-works/ .

For more information about academic support and engaging students in reading, contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space at (416) 925-1225 or visit www.ruthrumack.com.

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