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?


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.









The sign above says:


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 .

Reading Rainbow Kickstarter

Like just about every other person my age, I grew up on Reading Rainbow. LeVar Burton’s enthusiasm for reading and learning and his complete faith that books opened all possibilities was so inspiring, and he’s kept that positivity and passion and dedication to helping children find their own love of reading for over 30 years. I loved the show when I was a kid, but I lost track of it a bit as I grew up. I was thrilled when a friend of mine shared a link for a Reading Rainbow Kickstarter. Even though the television show was cancelled in 2006, the RR team has kept the dream alive, first with an amazingly popular app for iPad and Kindle Fire, and now with their new project: to create Reading Rainbow on the web so that anyone can access it, not just have it tied to specific devices. They want to greatly expand the books and video field trips they already have, and they want to be able to offer Reading Rainbow to classrooms in need free of charge, so that every child can have the opportunity to discover their own love of reading. It is American-focused, but the wonderful thing about being web-based means that children worldwide will be able to take advantage of the content.

The Kickstarter began May 28 with the goal of raising $1,000,000 in 35 days. They raised it in 11 hours. I have the page open as I’m writing this, and a day in it’s at $1,548, 554. Oops, $1,548, 669. I mean, $1,549,064. $1,549,164. $1,549,174. Over 33,000 backers who say that reading is important, and that a love of reading is equally as important as the skill itself. People who have donated anywhere from $5 to $10,000. It’s amazing, and heartwarming, and hopeful. Books teach, books connect, and books inspire, like nothing else can, and it’s so vitally important to pass these things on to the next generation.

So I absolutely encourage everybody to donate to this. Even just the $5, if that’s all you can spare–$5 times 33,000 people sure adds up. It’s already added up to $1,551,675. $1,551,740. $1,552,685. But you don’t have to take my word for it.


I’ll see you next time!

Today I Read…Girls A to Z

girls a to zToday I read Girls A to Z written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Suzanne Bloom.

In this charming and inspiring picture book, girls are shown with interests as diverse as their names, from A to Z! From being an astronaut to making ice cream to owning a zoo, girls can do anything!


I bought this book at the Word on the Street Festival this year for my niece, since her first birthday is coming up. I loved how diverse it was without making it the point of the book. All of the little girls are of different ethnicities, and one girl is in a wheelchair. However, this makes no difference to their interests. Any girl can have any interest. There are traditionally feminine vocations included–homemaking, cooking, dancing, teaching, being a librarian, childcare, and music. There are also traditionally masculine vocations, such as engineering, computer science, sports, and politics. There are ‘high-class’ interests like being a surgeon and ‘low-class’ interests like selling gasoline. The words are simple, with every girl’s name and interest beginning with the same letter of the alphabet. The letters aren’t emphasized visually (some alphabet books would make the letter larger on the page), and the vocabulary isn’t simplified (astronaut and xylophone aren’t easy words to read), so this book is probably more suitable to read to a very beginning reader, instead of having him or her read to an adult. However, the pictures are large and bright, and can be used by the adult to help prompt the child to read the interests.

This book is lovely, and I can’t wait to read it to little niece, once I’m sure that she won’t try to chew on the pages.

Today I read…Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t)

Miss Brooks Loves BooksToday I read Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t) written by Barbara Bottner and illustrated by Michael Emberley.

Miss Brooks the librarian likes books. I don’t. I don’t like books about Hallowe’en, or dragons, or Pilgrims, or presidents, or love, or leprechauns, or groundhogs, or fairies, or cowboys, or dogs, or trains, or…But I do like warts. Is there a book about warts?


Sometimes it’s hard for book lovers to remember that not everyone shares their passion. I’ve loved to read ever since I learned how, and I was reading adult novels by grade 3 at the latest–I think I skipped fairly quickly from easy reader books to novels. The reason was pretty simple–grade 3 I got into Star Trek, thanks to my teacher Mr. Coverdale, and back then there were no kids or YA Star Trek books, but there were a lot of adult Star Trek books. If I wanted to know the stories, I had to be able to read the books. That my Star Trek books were more interesting than my math textbook is another story…

This book promotes a story that librarians like to tell, that there is a book for everyone out there and our job is to match the right book to the right person. In this case, the little girl loves warts and snorting, so she loves Shrek by William Steig. I have to agree, Shrek is great, both the book and the movies. All of the kids like different books, and it’s okay not to like all of them, or to like the books that your friends like–it’s okay to like whatever you like.

The little girl in the book is in grade 1, which is a good reading level for this book–the paragraphs are very short, and some of the vocabulary is better for a middle reader, but it mentions several books for a lower reading level that the child reader of this book might have read and be able to recognize.