Freedom to Read Week 2015

 

Freedom to Read 2015Freedom to Read Week in Canada was February 22-28 this year, so this post is a little bit late, but I still wanted to write about it.

At my school this last year, I had a high counter right beside the main door that I used for a book display, which I changed weekly. I used different themes, genres, holidays, and once a month I asked a grade to pick out their favourite books for the display. I tried to combine fiction and nonfiction and different reading levels so there was usually something for everyone, and I’d often select the books I read to the younger grades for storytime from that week’s display, unless the teacher had made a special request. For Freedom to Read Week, I wanted to display challenged books but to also give some of the reasons they were challenged and encourage the students to think about not just why were they challenged, but why were they defended, and did they, the students, agree with either side?

Oakville-20150223-00383

I put up a Freedom to Read poster that I got from the OLA Super Conference and added two sheets above outlining what Freedom to Read Week was about and a copy of the Ontario Library Association Position on Children’s Rights in the Library.

Oakville-20150223-00384

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sign above says:

FREEDOM TO READ WEEK

Freedom To Read Week celebrates the fundamental right of ALL Canadians (including children!) to think, believe, and express their own ideas and opinions, and to have access to materials that express different ideas, as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Challenging a book means that someone complained and thought a book should be taken out of a library and nobody should be allowed to read it. All of the books on this display have been challenged at one time, because people thought they were bad books for children to read.

Can you guess the reasons? Look inside the book for the answer!

Do you agree with the reason? Do you want to read it?

 

I searched for lists of commonly challenged books online and the arguments both for and against them, and then I searched the school library to see what books we owned. I made a large bookmark for each book I selected for the display with the title, author, original publication date, arguments for and against each book, the source I’d found the information from, and ended each one by asking “What do you think?” You can somewhat see the bookmarks sticking up from the books in the display photo above.

The books I selected were:

  • The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  • The Wizard of OZ by L. Frank Baum
  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  • The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • Thomas Snowsuit by Robert Munsch
  • Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
  • The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein
  • The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Road Dahl
  • Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak by Deborah Ellis
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

The Snowy DayAnother challenged book that I read during storytime that week was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, published in 1962 and awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1963 among controversy. The story is about a little boy who wanders around his neighbourhood exploring after a snowfall. I read it to 2 classes, around 35-ish kids or so (I usually let the kids vote between 2 books for storytime, and the other classes wanted to hear Where the Wild Things Are), and at the end I asked them why they thought some people would not like the book and think that it shouldn’t be in libraries and at children shouldn’t be allowed to read it. The kids suggested all kinds of things from the story, how Peter didn’t tell his mother where he was going and went out without a grown-up and shouldn’t have knocked down snow with a stick and shouldn’t have thrown snowballs with the bigger kids and shouldn’t have tracked snow inside and a lot of reasons that probably say a lot about our helicopter parenting society, but not one of them guessed the real reason, nor did some of the older students who tried to guess what was wrong with it. Every adult I asked looked at the cover and knew right away.

The Snowy Day was the first full-colour picture book with an African-American protagonist. All of the kids, regardless of race, thought this was a bizarre reason to object to the book. It gave me an excellent opportunity to point out how attitudes change over time, and what some people find objectionable others have no problem with or want to promote, and all of those people use the library and deserve to have books.

You can find the bookmarks I made here: Reasons for challenged books .

Advertisements

Today I Read…Up and Down

Up and DownToday I read Up and Down by Terry Fallis. In 2013 this book was a finalist for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour and won the Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen Award and the CBC Bookie Award for Most Hilarious Canadian Book.

David Stewart has quite a challenge ahead of him. He’s just taken a job at the Turner King PR agency, and they’re going after a new out of this world client–NASA. They recently surveyed people and found that more people would rather go out for lunch than watch a space shuttle launch. They want to return to the good old days, when the Space Race was exciting and the entire country would shut down to watch astronauts leave the earth, not to mention when their funding was plentiful to match the intense public interest.

Trying to impress his new boss, David throws out an idea during a brainstorming session–the Citizen Astronaut contest. Every astronaut from the start of the space program has been a highly trained, brilliant, athletic, highly skilled specialist of some sort–they are extraordinary people. So how are ordinary people supposed to relate to and be interested in their work? The Citizen Astronaut would be an Average Joe or Jane, a regular person who would go into space and contribute to the mission, someone to rekindle popular interest by being the embodiment of the dream that anyone can go into space. It’s bold, it’s innovative, it’s attention-getting.

Well, his boss hates it. Unfortunately, it’s all they have to run with after NASA shoots down their more conventional ideas. David’s boss orders him to make sure that the randomly selected Canadian winner of the contest is young, photogenic, and your basic flannel-clad hockey-loving lumberjack stereotype. Unfortunately, the real winner is a 71-year-old lesbian bush doctor pilot with a father who disappeared 40 years ago and who is so obsessed with space that she built her own centrifuge outside her remote cabin to train herself to handle extreme G-forces. David is so compelled by her story that he pushes (and prods, and shoves, and maybe does a few other things he can’t admit to) for Dr. Landon Percival to be announced as Canada’s Citizen Astronaut. But can a senior citizen really go into space? Can David spin her story so that not only TK and NASA, but the Canadian public will embrace her as their representative on the space shuttle? And can he do this without getting fired really, really hard?

******************************************************************************************

This is the book that I got at the inaugural Wines and Lines event last year. I did attend this year as well, but it was basically a repeat of the first year with different authors so I didn’t see the need to write a review of the event.

I picked this one of the three choices because it was supposed to be funny, and it is, but it’s not really a comedy book, even though it is. It’s very funny is a realistic way–as though the events could happen (except NASA’s lawyers would probably have a collective apoplexy if someone proposed something like the Citizen Astronaut contest in real life). The title is very apt in several ways. David and the rest of the characters go through many ups and downs in their lives over the course of the book, as well as the characters who literally go up and down from Earth to the Space Station and back again.

This was something of a departure for me, since I tend to read a lot of genre fiction or children’s and YA books since I just spent a year as a school librarian. Still, I enjoyed this book very much. Like any science fiction fan, I feel a little bit ripped off that we don’t have moon colony yet, and Star Trek assures me that first contact with an alien species is due to happen in less than 50 years. The Citizen Astronaut contest, if it was real, is definitely something that would grab my attention.

David is a great character. He’s very well-rounded and realistic, and he careens from one challenge to another feeling like he’s barely treading water but rising to every problem. He’s still very young–only in his mid-twenties, and this is his second job after university. He’s inexperienced, and young enough to be little crazy, and he’s a great contrast to Landon Percival who is old enough to be comfortable being polite to everyone while getting her own way.

This is more of a quiet chuckle book than a laugh out loud one, but it’s very well-written and entertaining, while being a quintessentially Canadian humour (which is definitely spelled with a ‘u’).