Freedom to Read Week is coming up

It runs February 20-26 this year and people are being asked to read books that have been challenged here in Canada (pdf).

Something else that looks like a good idea, the Freedom of Expression committee has partnered with Bookcrossing.com to encourage the sharing of these books. If you want to free a challenged book (or several) this year, check that out.

The Freedom of Expression Committee invites you to find a title you care about from our list of challenged literature and release it into your community. Perhaps your book will be picked up by someone in your community or maybe even by a foreign exchange student who will release it in another country — that’s the beauty of this project and our hope for your freed book.

People find a lot of reasons to complain about books. Sometimes it’s due to language, sometimes it’s sexual content. Sometimes complaints are launched based on religious or racist grounds. Looking through that pdf file, it’s clear that libraries and schools often agree to make allowances, like reducing the number of copies available or reassessing the age appropriateness of certain titles at elementary schools, but, to their credit, they do a decent job of making sure the request doesn’t mean banning a book entirely.

Our Banned Book club has chosen Robert Cormier’s book The Chocolate War for next month. It topped the American Library Association’s challenged book list in 2004.

More about why:

The sexual activity noted in The Chocolate War is one case of a teen masturbating in the boys’ bathroom at school. However, someone who actually counted each incidence claims there are six references to masturbation and wet dreams in the book. Perhaps it was more of a tragedy back in 1974 than it is today, it hardly seems reason to call in the book burners. It has been referred to as “a Watergate at the high school level”(Smith) by attendees of the National Council of Teachers of English during the 1975 convention. Though rarely noted, there are also homophobic slurs. Perhaps that is what the real issue is, that Cormier managed to bring to life ‘real life’.

There’s also profanity, some unkind things about the Catholic school system, smack talk about communion wafers.. essentially it’s got everything people like to get irate about. I know I’m looking forward to reading it…

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