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.

Freedom to Read Week

What do the following titles have in common?

harry mock rye tale bibl orig


munroAll of these are titles which have been challenged.  Somewhere in Canada in the past 30 years, individuals or groups have tried to have these books removed from schools, libraries and bookstores.  The list of challenged authors includes Canadian Alice Munro, the 2013 Nobel Laureate for Literature.

Freedom to Read Week

What do the following titles have in common?

harry mock rye tale bibl orig


munroAll of these are titles which have been challenged.  Somewhere in Canada in the past 30 years, individuals or groups have tried to have these books removed from schools, libraries and bookstores.  The list of challenged authors includes Alice Munro, the 2013 Nobel Laureate for Literature.