EDITORIAL: On the lookout for book banning

Vancouver Island Regional Library's Freedom to Read Week highlights the challenges and bans still faced by some book authors

It’s said that everything is bigger in Texas.

Apparently, that includes the list of banned and challenged books.

Feb. 22-28 is Freedom to Read Week throughout the branches of the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) system, which serves 430,000 people on Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and Bella Coola through 39 libraries, a virtual branch, books-by-mail service and a total of one million holdings.

One of the things being done during Freedom to Read week is the display of “challenged works.”

“Canadians have a right to decide for themselves what they choose to read,” said a news release from the VIRL. “Banned books and free expression may not make the headlines, but they affect the lives of every Canadian.”

Nanoose Bay author Susan Juby knows what it’s like to face this type of censorship. Her book Miss Smithers was challenged in Texas in 2006.

We’re not talking Fifty Shades of Grey here — Miss Smithers is about a young misfit student who becomes the local beauty queen.

Then again, it doesn’t take much to be challenged or banned in Texas. For many years in a row, the Harry Potter series was challenged. In one school year (2005-06) alone, 65 books were challenged and about 50 of them banned from 48 independent school districts and charter schools.

In a state where football is of higher importance than religion for many, the book published in 2000 about high school football that later became a movie and TV series, Friday Night Lights, was challenged.

The American Civil Liberties Association releases studies and lists regarding challenged and banned books (Google ‘ALCU banned books’ for more detail).

Good on the VIRL for highlighting the fact there is still some serious censorship going on in our world. Now, we understand there may be some reading material that’s inappropriate for a classroom — we can all agree Playboy or Playgirl shouldn’t be available in a Grade 3 class, can’t we? — but we applaud the VIRL for highlighting the issue.

Farenheit 451 or Nazi book burners are the high-profile examples, but the Freedom to Read can be eroded by subtle challenges here and there, and with the VIRL’s help we can all stay on top of this important issue — knowledge is power.

— Editorial by John Harding

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