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‘Freedom to Read Week’ dedicated to freedom of expression

“Freedom to Read Week” celebrates its 40th anniversary this week, representing 40 years of dedication to freedom of expression. Annually, the week raises awareness about censorship and access to books and magazines across Canada. 

In recognition of “Freedom to Read Week,” the Lethbridge Public Library has two displays with challenged or banned adult and children’s books, which includes “Antiracist Baby” – a board book that “empowers parents and children to uproot racism in our society and in ourselves.”

Caroline Moynihan, from the library’s Information Services, says “Freedom to Read Week” has been going on since 1984. “It’s a week to get people to challenge censorship.” 

Data suggests often similarly challenged or banned books are on lists in both Canada and the United States. In the United States, banned books have increased 40 per cent from 2021 and 2022. 

“People challenging titles and a lot of those deal with issues around LGBTQ. They seem to be the most challenged titles right now,” says Moynihan. 

Every year, the Lethbridge library wants patrons to know it tries to make information available and have a balanced collection, “so everyone can freely choose what aligns with their beliefs,” says Moynihan. “We have something for everybody. It’s important to remind people there are going to be things you agree with and things you disagree with.” 

Alberta Teachers’ Association President Jason Schilling says it’s important for students to have a variety of texts they can read at school. 

“It’s important they’re able to access books that represent the diverse nature we see within the province.”

Prior to being elected president of the ATA, Schilling was a high school English teacher at Kate Andrews High School in Coaldale. 

There seems to be more and more controversy around certain books, Schilling notes, especially coming out of the United States – where books are being banned. “We want to make sure any kind of book being read at school is age and grade appropriate, but we also want to make sure we’re looking at books in a way that is fair and we are not just arbitrarily making book bans for no good reason.” 

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