The School Library and Your Freedom to Read


Democracy is under attack in the world, and sadly, even here in Canada. Your democratic rights and freedoms as citizens in this country are built upon concepts such as voting rights; the rule of law; the equality of all people; freedom of thought, including political and religious beliefs; the freedom of the press; balancing government of the majority with protection of the rights of the minority; and more.

This week we celebrate and explore the freedom to read, which is interconnected with many other vital concepts, including freedom of expression, the the right to choose to read what you want to read, including access to information, the freedom to seek, use and share information and literature, all of which are integral to democratic citizenship.

Stereotypically, the library is seen as a quiet place, silent even, where not much happens. Yet the library, and especially the school library, has always been a target of censorship, and as such has always been in the middle of the ongoing struggle between democracy and the forces of authoritarianism. School libraries are now battlegrounds at the center of our current polarized political and cultural climate.

The recent news has been rife with reports of book challenges, book bannings– and terrifyingly, even book burnings– in many U.S. states, school districts, and school libraries. As Canadians we cannot assume that this is only an American problem. We must be vigilant in protecting our students’ freedom to read.

Freedom of expression rights are essential to education in a free and democratic society. These are the rights of everyone in the school community, including students. Teacher-librarians are charged with ensuring that those rights are acknowledged and respected.

Diane Oberg

Some students are fortunate enough to have many places to turn to for books and other sources of information. Collections at home, public libraries, books stores, and of course, the internet(!). However, access to those things may be very limited, censored, or non-existent for some students. The school library is often the safest and most accessible place for a wide variety of books and other sources of information that are relevant and essential for students.

All Canadians who value democracy have an interest in protecting and building up the institutions that support democracy. The school library is one of those institutions.

Read more about the vital role of the Teacher Librarians and of the school library play in protecting and empowering a student’s Freedom to Read:

Freedom of Expression Rights and the School Library: Who Speaks for the Kids in Your School When the Censor Comes Calling?” by Diane Oberg (from FreedomtoRead.ca)

Freedom to Read Week


Find out more. Here are some informative and thought provoking articles on the freedom to read, censorship, book banning and free access to information:


Freedom to Read Week



Do you see any common themes amongst all these books?

These are just some of the books that have been challenged, banned and removed from school libraries in the USA, just this year. The freedom to read what you want to read is a fundamental cornerstone of democracy. However, just as democracy itself is under siege around the world, the freedom to read cannot be taken for granted. Anti-democratic forces are always at work to undermine your freedom to read and other democratic rights. You must stand up for those rights.

Is it a coincidence that the books seen above deal with themes such as discrimination, racism, and oppression, or have central characters that come from marginalized groups?

What do you think?

Find out more: FreedomtoRead.ca


Coming Soon: Freedom to Read Week


February 20-26 is Freedom to Read Week in Canada.

While this is always an important week on the calendar, this year it seems more vital than ever that we understand and celebrate our freedom to read. South of the border books are being banned at an alarming rate. Throughout the world, the freedom of journalists continues to be threatened. As authoritarian and fascist movements rise around the globe, they attack such things as libraries, a free press, and other cornerstones of democracy and human rights.



Look for more to come on this vital topic, as we prepare for Freedom to Read Week.

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

Freedom to Read Week celebrates your freedom to read what you choose to read.

These books have all been challenged.

These books have been challenged in Canada


A challenge means that at some point in Canada, someone or some group has said that you shouldn’t be reading these books in school, or borrowing them from libraries, or in some cases, even buying them from stores.



These books have all been challenged.


So have these books

Freedom to Read Week is a chance to celebrate your freedom to read what you choose to read. It is also a time to reflect on the ongoing battle to protect that freedom. What better way to celebrate Freedom to Read Week, and to exercise your rights and freedoms, than to read a book– maybe even one of these.

Find out more about books that have been challenged in Canada:


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.