Celebrate Your Child's Freedom To Read

March 2, 2013 | Christie

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February 26 - March 4, 2017 marks Freedom To Read Week in Canada.  This annual event encourages Canadians of all ages, backgrounds, and reading levels to think about, acknowledge, and actively assert their intellectual freedom.  Even though this is guaranteed to all Canadian citizens under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there still remains a strong movement towards censoring certain works of literature, and includes attempts to outright ban them from both school and public libraries alike.

The most common reasons books are considered for banning are for sexual or violent content, mature subject matter, and political content including but not limited to racial and/or ethnic discrimination.

A book that is considered banned or challenged does not necessarily m
ean that it has been banned or challenged everywhere; but somewhere, at some point in history, its right to be on a library shelf has been disputed.

You may have heard about some of these well-known challenged older children and teen works such as:

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis


Toronto Public Library's 2014 city-wide book club's "One Book" selection Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

What you may have not realized though, is that many children's picture books have also been challenged by individuals, parents, communities, and/or political groups. Many that are on the list include themes surrounding death, homosexuality, racism, discrimination, and subject matter considered too mature for children (alluding to the molesting/abuse of a child by a family member/neighbour etc.)  While some may be found among the picture books, many of these works are generally shelved in the "Parents" section of the library.

In appreciation of banned and challenged books, and as a small way of celebrating our freedom to read, here are just some of the rather surprising picture books I have stumbled upon, that have been challenged over the years:

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Reason: For "being an allegorical political commentary". The Lorax pleads to the Once-ler to stop cutting down the trees, and these comments "criminalize the forestry industry" and brainwashes children into thinking politically "left". 


Where's Waldo by Martin Hanford

ReasoWhereswaldon: Tanning female with partially exposed breast on the beach. In the new editions, the sunbathing female is wearing her bikini top as opposed to the original illustration where the top was laying on the beach towel in front of her.


In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

InthenightkitchenReason: The little boy is naked. Some teachers reacted by covering the "offending" parts with marker or tape.



I Have To Go by Robert Munsch

ReaIhavetogoson: Many of Robert Munsch's books have been challenged throughout the years, including The Paper Bag Princess, Love You Forever, and Thomas' SnowsuitThis particular work was challenged due to the wording of the one repeating line "I have to go pee!", as it was found to be distasteful and inappropriate language for children to be exposed to.  In some editions, it was changed to "I have to go to the bathroom!"


The Story of Babar, The Little Elephant by Jean de Brunhoff


Reason: For promoting colonialism, and being "politically and morally offensive"



and finally, the one that may just shock you the most:

Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr.

BrownbearReason: The Texas Board of Education removed all copies from the  library shelves in their schools, because they believed the author had written books for adults that contained "very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system."  The author they believed Bill Martin Jr. to be, was an author of a similar name, Bill Martin; a philosophy professor from Chicago.  Both school board members who motioned for the books to be removed from the shelves had not read the book themselves. 

Bill Martin Jr.'s co-author Michael Sampson, stated that the motion was "a new low in terms of the group that's supposed to represent education having such faulty research and making such a false leap without substantiating what they're doing."  Read more about it here.

The right to encourage reading and your right to intellectual freedom doesn't begin or end with Freedom to Read Week.  So celebrate your child's love of reading and check out or re-read one of the above mentioned picture books, visit our dedicated page at http://tpl.ca/freedomtoread for more information, as well as freedomtoread.ca and browse some challenged titles.

Know a challenged children's picture book that is not listed here or on freedomtoread.ca?  Post it here! I would love to add it to my list!

Happy Reading! :)

Please note, this post has been updated on February 25th 2017 to reflect the current dates of Freedom to Read week.