Freedom to Read; Obligation to Read

As Freedom to Read Week comes to an end, it bears considering that the freedom to read means nothing if citizens don’t exercise that that freedom.

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

Source: Unknown*

The rights and freedoms of Canadians include the right to read what you want to read. Such rights and freedoms are fundamental to democracy. Yet there are forces at work in our society that seek power by attaching your rights, including attempts to censor or limit your freedom to read.

Authoritarian forces and totalitarian states know that uneducated and illiterate citizens are easier to control and oppress. Such forces can only celebrate that the work is much simpler when significant portions of the population choose not to read. Censorship becomes less pressing when “aliteracy” becomes prevalent.

A true democracy guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms to its citizens. But to work effectively, indeed, to survive, democracy requires that citizens exercise those rights. In particular, democracy breaks down if citizens aren’t educated, informed and active.

The rise of powerful new information technology in the last few decades has made it more important than ever that citizens are highly “information literate.” Citizens must not only have access to information, they must have the tools required to wade through increasingly destructive levels of misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, and outright lies. Citizens need to have access to information that is credible, accurate and trustworthy.

The rise of anti-intellectualism and anti-science movements, perhaps most recently represented by anti-vax conspiracies, are part of the wider breakdown of democratic institutions. There is little doubt that attacks on public education over many years have reaped some these results and are integral to the rise of authoritarianism.

It is not enough to celebrate the Freedom to Read. As citizens of democratic societies, we have an obligation to exercise our Freedom to Read, in part so that we are equipped to defend our democratic rights and freedoms.

It is clear that democracy is under attack, throughout the world, and in our back yard. We must act.



Note* The above quote, or variations on it, are often popularly attributed to Mark Twain. However the original source of this quote, or its variations, remains unclear.

Freedom to Read Week

Your Freedom to Read is protected by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Your Freedom to Read is also in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.



Find out more:

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Freedom to Read Week

February 21 to 27 is Freedom to Read Week in Canada in 2021.  Come down to the School Library to find out more.  We have a display of books and other resources related to our freedom to read, our right to have access to information, and our responsibility to exercise those rights and freedoms as informed, free-thinking citizens. 

Freedom to Read Week 2021

Along with our in person display of books, magazines, audiobooks, playaways and more, we will will also feature online resources, such as ebooks, digital audiobooks, online databases, and more, so be sure to check out our site, tweedsmuirlibrary.ca.

You can also click here to find out more about Freedom to Read Week.

Democracy v. Fascism

Our students will leave our school and soon become the adults who will hold the future of democracy in their hands.  We must educate and equip our students to recognize the rights and responsibilities of democratic citizenship.  We must help them see the precious nature of the democratic traditions that have been handed to them by previous generations. We must help them see the fragile nature of those institutions and the peril that is represented by those forces that are at work to undermine democracy.

Most pressingly, we must help our students to recognize the rise of fascism, both in the world and in our own backyard.  We must equip our students to denounce fascist ideology and to defeat fascist attempts to destroy our democracy.

The politics of fear, division, and hate will fight for the souls of our students.  We must counter those dark forces with hope, unity and love.  Forces are at work undermining the foundations of democracy, including the rule of law, freedom of the press, public education, respect for science and reason, confidence in free and fair elections, and peaceful transitions of power. We must build up faith in those ideals in our kids, and equip them to demand them as their rightful expectation for a civil society.

Polarizing forces are at work which divide us, resulting in extreme “othering” to the point of dehumanization. We must find ways to help the next generation to reconcile that which divides us, or at least to find respectful and peaceful ways to engage with those divisions.  Somehow we must find common ground with our beliefs about truth. We must find some way to agree on “the facts” even if we don’t agree on what do with those facts.

Please check out our display of items related to the struggle between democracy and fascism.

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Current Issues, Current Events

Come by the School Library and check out our feature display of titles related to some of the big ideas and events that affect our world right now.

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World Press Freedom Day

May 3rd is World Press Freedom Day, as established by UNESCO / United Nations. The freedom of the press is essential to the establishment and health of democracy.  In our world of social media, misinformation, disinformation, fake news and conspiracy theories, we need a free, independent, professional and ethical press more than ever.

As the [COVID-19] pandemic spreads, it has also given rise to a second pandemic of misinformation, from harmful health advice to wild conspiracy theories. The press provides the antidote: verified, scientific, fact-based news and analysis.

Source: UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Find out more:

Freedom to Read Week

February 23 to 29 is Freedom to Read Week in Canada.  Come down to the School Library to find out more.  We have a display of books and other resources related to our freedom to read, our right to have access to information, and our responsibility to exercise those rights and freedoms as informed, free-thinking citizens.  We will will also feature online resources, so be sure to check out our site, tweedsmuirlibrary.wordpress.com.

Freedom to Read Week 2020

Election Day

Canadians go to the polls today to to elect our federal government. Voting is just one aspect of the democratic system, but it is a vital one. Canadians must cherish the right to vote, and must accept the serious responsibility to vote. It is the responsibility of each citizen in a democracy to get informed, think critically, and exercise the right to vote.

(Source: CC (Daro))

Our students are too young to vote now, but they will be eligible for the elections of the near future. And yet even without voting, our students are participants in the democratic system. High school is important for many different reasons. None is more important that preparing our kids to take on the responsibilities of democratic citizenship.  We want our kids to be Canadians that exercise, celebrate, and protect their rights as citizens in a democracy.

Libraries, including Public Libraries and School Libraries, can play a vital part in the equipping of our students for democratic citizenship.  Canadians must have access to reliable sources of information. Just as importantly, Canadians must be information literate. They must have the tools to be able to recognize unreliable sources, including disinformation, fake news, propaganda, etc.  They must be able to have confidence in recognizing and using reliable information to think critically and to make educated decisions about the issues facing our country, our cities, our neighbourhoods, and our world.


October is International School Library Month
and Canadian Library Month.

Freedom to Read Week

Freedom to Read Week 2018

It is Freedom to Read Week in Canada.  We take time this week to celebrate some of our fundamental rights and freedoms, including the freedom to read whatever we choose to read. As citizens of a liberal democracy, we require access to information and ideas, free from state interference or censorship. Take some time this week to reflect on your Freedom to Read.

Find out more:

Freedom to Read Week

World Press Freedom Day

worldpressfreedomdayEvery year, 3 May is a date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

The international day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the 26th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991. This in turn was a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence. (unesco)

For more information:

UNESCO

UN News

Globe and Mail