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.

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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 .

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Today I Read…Ensign Sue

Ensign Sue Must DieToday I read the Ensign Sue trilogy, Ensign Sue Must Die, Ensign Two: The Wrath of Sue, and Ensign Cubed: Crisis of Infinite Sue, written by Clare Moseley and illustrated by Kevin Bolk.

The multiverse is about to face the greatest danger it has ever seen–Ensign Mary Amethyst Star Enoby Aiko Archer Picard Janeway Sue! Torn between Kirk’s love and Spock’s (say what?), the seventeen-year-old medical officer, half-Russian, half-Vulcan, half-Japanese, half-Klingon, proud owner of Le Cutest of Beagle anda spunicorn (it’s like a unicorn, but it’s in space!), she is the most annoying creature the Enterprise has ever encountered. Unfortunately, in their desperation to get rid of this galactic pest, they accidentally ripped a hole in the space-time continuum and spread the Sues across the multiverse! It’s up to the crew of the Enterprise, the Doctor, and Wolverine (if there’s a team, he has to be on it), to travel the multiverse and trap the Sues in Pokeballs, and they gotta catch ’em all! But they have to be careful, because Sues lurk where you least expect…

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Wrath of SueI found this comic at the Interrobang Studios booth at Fan Expo last August, and the premise was hilarious so I bought the trilogy and read it on the train home that night. And I was right–it’s terrific! Both wonderfully funny and an excellent examination of the dreaded Mary Sue trope, the third book takes a turn for the serious by making Mary Sue into a character with a deeper motivation than her pretty hair. All she really wanted was for the people she loves so much to love her back–something many fans would like. She just has to learn that she can’t force people to love her–again, a lesson a lot of people in real life could stand to learn.

Crisis of Infinite SuesThe illustrations are adorable, and I really love the Sues’ cheek cutie marks, that help differentiate their different universes. And Sulu’s frustration at Anna Mae Sue’s terrible pidgin-Japanese, and how Mirror-Sue is evil because of her outfit, and how Khan-Prime defeats Reboot-Khan, and Kirk’s despair over his own sue-ish tendencies, and how Bella Swan is too useless and boring to even be a Sue. Basically, I love everything about this series.

It will probably appeal most to fangirls, and ones who can see the funny side of fandom and fangirls. And remember–may the Sue be with you (’cause she’s driven everybody else crazy).

Can’t read anything when your nose is pointed straight up

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/03/28/the-power-of-young-adult-fiction/adults-should-read-adult-books

This article came out a few weeks ago, and after careful consideration of all sides of the story–I’m still mad.

Really? You’ve never read these books, you don’t intend to read these books, you have no idea what they’re about, but you know for an absolute fact that they’re not worth your time and have nothing worthwhile in them that could possibly amuse you or make you think? After all, as an adult, you know everything, right? Oh, they’re good enough for kids, since of course kids are incapable of understanding or appreciating “the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults.” But not for [sticks nose in the air and assumes a haughty and mildly constipated expression] adults.

Now, not all YA/children’s books are good. I hate Twilight- I couldn’t get past chapter 3 before I wanted to kill Bella just to stop the whining. And that was before she met Mr.Sparkly Pants- I have massive issues with that highly abusive relationship storyline and Bella’s complete lack of characterization or development over the entire series. However, despite not being able to finish the book (and I read Harlequins and made it through all 3 seasons of Veronica Mars), I still know what it’s about, what happens, themes, etc. I have reasons for calling it Twicrap.

That said, I did love Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, the other two highly popular series the writer mentioned. The Harry Potter books aren’t the greatest and most original works of art ever created, but they’re a very solid story told well. The characters develop, explore their world, learn and grow and make the reader think alongside them. The Hunger Games is a reimagining of Greek mythology blended with Roman history-Theseus and the Athenian sacrifices to the Bull of Crete presented as Roman gladitorial games to entertain and control the masses. Gosh, those stories go back about 3,000 years and they were written for adults, weren’t they?

A good story is a good story. And if it is truly good, then it will stand the test of time. I started reading Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series about 20 years ago, and I’ve reread it at least once a year since. Every time I read it, I find something new to think about, because I have grown and changed and I have a different perspective on what the characters go through. The fifth book,The Wizard’s Dilemma,argued that if you have sworn to respect and defend all life, then that includes life you don’t like, such as the cancer that was killing the main female character’s mother. Cancer cells do what they are meant to do-they grow and live and multiply. You can’t really blame them for that. When I first read this, I had sympathy for Nina, but I thought the book had a point. I felt much differently when my grandmother died of pneumonia. It’s a disease, it’s alive, but I didn’t feel much respect for its life at the time.

I’m not even getting into the argument for parents, teachers, child psychologists, social workers, or anyone else who interacts with children or young adults on a regular basis to know what their children are reading and learning. Or writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, or librarians (hi!) for whom reading YA books is their job, an argument which Joel Stein also forgets about.

So to conclude this rant, mind your own business Joel and quit reading over my shoulder, because the sniffing is distracting me from Alanna of Trebond learning to deal with bullies and Cimorene of Linderwall refusing to marry someone she doesn’t like and Hermione is trying to study.

Also (I lied, little bit more rant), many of the comments on this article mentioned C.S. Lewis’ fantastic quote on adulthood, which is completely spot-on, so I’m going to add it in here. /endrant

“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”  ―    C.S. Lewis