Sunday, February 27, 2011

Challenged Books

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1999)

2002: Black parents and teachers in Yarmouth, Digby, and Shelburne (NS) objected to this novel, Barbara Smucker’s Underground to Canada, and John Ball’s In the Heat of the Night. The director of education of the Tri-County school board ordered the withdrawal of the three books pending a ruling by the board, but his order was rescinded at a board meeting and the books were restored. In 1993, a school principal in Hamilton (ON) removed the novel from the core reading list for Grade 10 after a complaint from a parent. In 1991, a black community group called PRUDE (Pride of Race, Unity and Dignity through Education) asked Saint John (NB) School District 20 to withdraw this book and Huckleberry Finn from reading lists.

Cause of objection: The novel, which contains the word “nigger,” might cause black students to be mocked because of racial stereotyping.

We finish FTRW 2011 with one of the most widely challenged books that tends to spark controversy. The books we have covered on the blog have been banned or challenged for a range of reasons and by different groups. These issues are not always black and white and often the desire to limit access or remove materials comes from a wish to protect young readers or deny the uglier parts of reality. The importance of Freedom to Read Week is to remember that all information wants to be free - it is not information or books or words that do damage and it is disrespectful and belittling to assume that readers "cannot handle" or will be damaged by book, movies, music, or images. What is important is for readers to be socially and culturally literate and to be able to assess and understand the relevance and viewpoints expressed in different kinds of media.

Happy Freedom to Read Week 2011!

Challenged Books

Trouble on Tarragon Island by Nikki Tate (2005)

2007: A librarian at the Elizabeth School in Kindersley (SK) withdrew this children’s novel from the library’s shelves. The novel depicts a dispute over clear-cut logging in B.C. Cause of objection: In the novel, a girl’s grandmother joins an anti-logging group and poses semi-nude for a calendar. In the first chapter, several boys taunt the girl about her grandmother’s breasts, calling them “bazoongas.” The librarian objected to the bullying scene—the Elizabeth School has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying—and to the word “bazoongas.”

Update: In July 2007, the outgoing principal defended the librarian’s decision. In the autumn of 2007, a new principal reversed the decision to withdraw the book.

Challenged Books

Black like Kyra, White like Me by Judith Vigna (1992)

2000: A patron of the Toronto Public Library complained about this children’s picture book about a black family moving into an all-white neighbourhood and encountering racial prejudice.

Cause of objection: The complainant said the story “reinforces negative stereotypes about blacks and positive types about whites.”

Update: The book was retained in the library’s collection.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Challenged Books

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (2000)

2000: Terry Lewis, a member of the Reform party’s national executive council, complained about the use of this novel by Winnipeg’s River East School Division and called for the book’s removal from school reading lists. The novel has been targeted in other school jurisdictions across Canada as well.

Cause of objection: Lewis, who distributed 10,000 copies of a pamphlet arguing against the book, said that Steinbeck’s frequent use of “God,” “God-damned,” and “Jesus” in profane and blasphemous ways offended Christians and couldn’t possibly have any educational benefit.

Update: The River East School Division took no action. This objection and its disposition echoed an incident in Alberta in 1994, when a member of the legislature demanded that the novel be withdrawn from all high school reading lists in the province.

Reminder: Amy Goodman today!

Just a quick reminder that Amy Goodman will be speaking at the Telus Centre (111 St & 87 Ave on U of A Campus) today at 7:00pm. The event is free and is part of Edmonton Public Library's Freedom to Read Week program.

See you there!

Challenged Books

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban By J.K. Rowling (1999)

2000: The Durham (ON) Board of Education received numerous complaints about the immensely popular Harry Potter books being read in classrooms throughout the board’s schools. A school board official said that the complaints came from fundamentalist Christian parents.

Cause of objection: As is the case in at least 19 states of the U.S. and other parts of Canada, parents were concerned that Harry Potter is engaged in wizardry, witchcraft, and magic-making, and that these activities are inappropriate for young readers.

Update: After listening to the complaints, the administration decided to withdraw the books from classroom use but left them in school libraries where they would be available for book reports. One board member said she had wanted the books to be withdrawn completely from the schools; another member said the board had never been asked to decide the issue, so the books’ withdrawal amounted to censorship. Several months later, after a raucous public meeting, the board rescinded its decision to remove the books. However, in other jurisdictions teachers have been asked not to use the books in the classroom. This is said to have occurred in a school in Corner Brook (NF) and in Rockwood Public School in Pembroke (ON). In 2002, the Niagara (ON) District School Board turned down a parent’s request for the removal of the books from area schools. The parent said the books contained violence and promoted a religion (Wicca) which is against the law in Ontario schools. She said that she had not read the books.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Challenged Books

Glory Days and Other Stories by Gillian Chan (1996)

2000: During the sexual assault trial of a former teacher in Langley (BC), court heard evidence that the teacher had assigned a story, “Invisible Girl,” from this critically acclaimed collection to a Grade 4 and 5 class. The story deals with date rape. The school principal suggested to the board superintendent that the book be withdrawn from Langley schools.

Cause of objection: The story was deemed inappropriate for the grade level.

Update: Almost two years passed before a school board official assured the preparers of the Freedom to Read kit that the book had been withdrawn from the elementary panel but not from all schools in Langley. The book’s publisher, Kids Can Press, also attempted to find out whether the book had been taken out of all schools in the district. The book is still available in secondary school libraries.

Challenged Books

The Seduction of Peter S by Lawrence Sanders (1983)

2002: A patron of the Toronto Public Library challenged this adult thriller about an out-of- work actor who becomes a male prostitute.

Cause of objection: The patron said that the novel was a manual on how to become a male prostitute and that young readers could be affected.

Update: The library retained copies in its collection.

Challenged Books

Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite (1990)

2005: During Freedom to Read Week, the Lethbridge Public Library displayed books that had been challenged in North America. The inclusion of Daddy’s Roommate in the display prompted one library patron to request the removal of the book from the library.

Cause of objection: The complainant said that this fictional children’s book, which has a homosexual theme, was “not a proper role model for children.”

Update: The complainant did not pursue the challenge, so the book stayed in the library.

This is an interesting result for FTRW displays and while it is great that library projects are encouraging discussions it is a bit troubling that someone would (half heartedly) take an arguably opposite message from the week of celebration. Huge thanks to the brave librarians working to encourage social literacy and freedom of information everyday!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Challenged Books

The Little Black Book for Girlz, A Book on Healthy Sexuality (2006)

2006: The Institute for Canadian Values (ICV), a Christian organization, campaigned against this frank sex-education manual for teenage girls. The ICV urged people to write and phone to complain to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the minister of industry and local MPs to drop public funding for The Little Black Book for Girlz and similar books. The ICV also urged people to “monitor their local schools, libraries and other resource centres to ensure that the book is not introduced elsewhere.”

Cause of objection: The book, which is written by teenage girls for teenage girls, encourages lesbianism, describes lesbian sex, contains “obscene” language and provides “misleading information” about safe sex.

Challenged Books

Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak by Deborah Ellis (2004)

2006: In Ontario, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) urged public school boards to deny access to this children’s non-fiction book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to students in the elementary grades. Cause of objection: The CJC said that Ellis had provided a flawed historical introduction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The CJC also said that some children in the book portrayed Israeli soldiers as brutal, expressed ethnic hatred and glorified suicide bombing. The effect on young student readers, the CJC said, was “toxic.”

Update: Although the Ontario Library Association (OLA) had recommended Three Wishes to schools as part of its acclaimed Silver Birch reading program, and although schoolchildren were not required to read the book, at least five school boards in Ontario set restrictions on the text.

Goran Simic at UofA Bookstore - TODAY!

Just a quick reminder that Goran Simic, Edmonton's artist-in-exile for 2010-11, will be giving a reading of his poetry at the U of A bookstore in SUB today from 1pm-2pm. Coffee and refreshments are provided and this is a free event.

Take a long lunch and come out to support FTRW.  

EPL presents Amy Goodman

This Saturday Feb 26th EPL is hosting Amy Goodman (host of Democracy Now) as a part of their Freedom to Read Week events.
Goodman is the first journalist to receive the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize' for "developing an innovative model of truly independent grassroots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media." The Independent of London named Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! "an inspiration"; placed Goodman at the top of their 20 Top Global Media Figures.
Goodman is the author of four New York Times bestsellers. Her latest book, Breaking the Sound Barrier, proves the power of independent journalism in the struggle for a better world. She co-authored the first three bestsellers, Standing Up to the Madness, Static, and The Exception to the Rulers, with her brother, journalist David Goodman. (
Amy Goodman will be speaking at a free event this Saturday, February 26th at 7:00pm at the TELUS Centre on the U of A Campus (corner of 111 St and 87 Ave)

Check out the Facebook event page and bring a freedom loving friend.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Challenged Books

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (Book - 2006)

2007: After receiving a single complaint, the Halton (ON) Catholic District School Board ordered the withdrawal of these fantasy novels for young readers from the open shelves of libraries in elementary schools. The books were collected at library circulation desks, and students who wished to read the novels had to ask librarians for copies. The board also formed a committee to review the books. Within days, the Roman Catholic school board in Peterborough (ON) received two complaints about the novels and withdrew copies from school libraries. In Peterborough, school employees denied students access to the novels while the board set up a committee to review the novels. The Durham (ON) Catholic District School Board followed suit. The Calgary (AB) Catholic School District told employees to pull the novels from library shelves, not use the novels in classrooms and exclude the books from Scholastic book fairs. In Calgary, the school board also established a committee to review the novels.
Cause of objection: The stories, which are set in an alternative universe populated with talking animals, undermine belief in God and organized religion and promote atheism.
Update: In 2007, the Halton (ON) Catholic District School Board ignored the recommendation of its review committee and voted to ban the novels from schools. The board’s order proclaimed, “Philip Pullman’s trilogy of atheist ideology, carefully couched within the realm of fantasy for young readers, is in direct opposition to the mission statement and governing values of our board.” But a few weeks later, in 2008, the board of the Calgary (AB) Catholic School District decided to use The Golden Compass in schools. “There is no doubt that the text is harsh in terms of its language about organized religion and that it presents a consistently negative view of church, clergy and faith-based institutions; however, there are glimpses of light with opportunities for positive reflection,” the review document said. The board urged teachers, when using The Golden Compass, to use instruction guides to ensure “a carefully planned approach” and a Catholic focus.

FTRW on Campus - Goran Simic at UofA Bookstore

More FTRW events happening on campus this week, Thanks to Carly for sending this along to the blog:

Edmonton's 2010-11 writer-in-exile Goran Simic will be doing a poetry reading at the U of Alberta bookstore in SUB tomorrow, Thursday February 24th from 1pm-2pm.  

Coffee and treats will be provided and I hear attendees are welcome to keep their coffee mugs featuring quotes about freedom to read and censorship. 

Goran Simic was born in Bosnia in 1952. He has published eleven books of poetry, drama, and short fiction, including the acclaimed volume of poems in English translation, Sprinting from the Graveyard (Oxford University Press, 1997). In Canada, Simic has published Peace and War, a limited edition volume gathering poems by himself and by Fraser Sutherland; other books of his poetry and drama have been translated into nine languages. His poems are included in anthologies of world poetry, such as Scanning the Century (Penguin, 2002) and Banned Poetry (Index, 1997). He has received major literary awards from PEN USA and four times in former Yugoslavia. He lives and works in Edmonton, Sarajevo and Toronto.

This sounds like a incredible opportunity and we hope to see you there!

Challenged Books

Wild Fire, A Novel By Nelson DeMille (Book - 2006)

2007: A patron of the Edmonton Public Library complained about this thriller. In the novel, which is set in 2002, a group of powerful Americans secretly plot to provoke a nuclear attack on the Middle East in retaliation for the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. in 2001.
Cause of objection: The complainant said Wild Fire was “just another hate promoting novel.”
Update: The library retained the book in its collection.

Freedom to Read Week

"It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those which some elements of society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular, or unacceptable. To this end, libraries shall acquire and make available the widest variety of materials." - Canadian Library Association

Welcome to Freedom to Read Week! What are you doing to celebrate or raise awareness this week?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Challenged Books

Throughout the week we will be hilighting some of the books that have been recently challenge at Canadian libraries and the reasons they were opposed. We are using the excellent EPL website as our resource for this feature and we really encourage you to check out all of the information they have available for FTRW and other special events -

To start off with, a classic:

The Handmaid's Tale by Atwood, Margaret (Book - 1985)

2008: In Toronto, a parent formally complained about the use of this dystopian novel in a Grade 12 English class at Lawrence Park Collegiate. Cause of objection: The parent said that the novel’s “profane language,” anti-Christian overtones, “violence” and “sexual degradation” probably violated the district school policies that require students to show respect and tolerance to one another.
Update: In 2009, a review panel of the Toronto District School Board recommended that schools keep the novel in the curriculum in Grades 11 and 12.

FTRW - Story Time for Grown-ups

Welcome to Freedom to Read Week (and reading week on the U of A campus). EPL is hosting a really exciting event this Thursday Feb 24th starting at 7pm at the ARTery - 9535 Jasper Ave.

Come and enjoy some risque, post-valentine's day adult story reading that promises to range from Shakespear to the Marquis de Sade to Woody Allen.

Erotica are works of art, including literature, that deal substantively with erotically stimulating or sexually arousing descriptions. Celebrate Freedom to Read by joining us for an evening of erotic tales. Our readers, Linda Paksi and Tim Anderson, will be reading select erotic stories and poems - many from authors in our collection.

Don't be shy, the price is right (free admission!) - hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Parents Against Bad Books In Schools" Group as Scary as They Sound

Reblogged from Jezebel Feb 10/11

"Parents Against Bad Books In Schools" are among a recent surge in groups looking to remove "bad" books from libraries in North America. The definition of what makes a book "bad" in the eyes of these groups can range widely but often focus on homosexual characters, themes, and sex. 
(Challenged books have included Running with Scissors; The Things They Carried; One Hundred Years of Solitude.) Groups like PABBIS are becoming more numerous and better organized. Says Joan Bertin of the National Coalition Against Censorship,
Groups of parents are getting together and organizing in their communities to ban books...I think what's happening is once a book is challenged in one town, people on the same wavelength, it will flag that book for them. For example, we've seen three challenges to Sherman Alexie's teen novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, all within the past three months, two in Missouri, one in Montana.
While not all challenges are successful at getting books removed from curriculum or libraries, 25% (the estimated success rate) is a lot of books. And the problem, in some sense, is the larger issue: this isn't about individual parents throwing out books, although that's sad enough. Rather, as Bertin says, it's not in a vacuum.
We never have a problem with people who don't want their own kid to read a book...We have a problem with people who feel these books are corrosive to the culture, and they don't want them taught in schools. They think it's immoral and offends their religious values, whether they're Jewish, Christian or Muslim. (emphasis mine)
 This kind of moralizing and presuming that one's values should be extended to everyone in society is disturbing but can be difficult for elementary school educators to oppose. It is much harder to make an argument for trusting young readers, having nuanced discussions about real world issues and a diversity of opinions voiced in schools but I think it is a critical issue that librarians have to face.
Kudos to the librarians who have to deal with these social pressures and make intelligent, sane, eloquent arguments for freedom of speech (and reading).

FLIF Wrapping Party *Today*

Just a quick reminder that we will be having a wrapping party in Henderson Hall starting at 6pm today. We will be  wrapping up some choice romance novels in anticipation of our Pint of Romance event following FIP this Friday and there may be some v-day candy involved.
We have organized an informal get together at Lucky13 on Whyte Ave for this Friday evening. FLIF members and their guests are on the guest list until 10pm. Come on out to dance away some of the library school stress and receive the gift of a little love (in the form of some classic Harlequin titles) from FLIF. Everyone is welcome and we hope to see everyone there in their future librarian finest.

There is no cover if you arrive before 10pm - we're on the list as 'library school'