Canada celebrates Freedom to Read Week

Freedom-150.jpgFirst aired on Ottawa Morning (02/22/11)

Censored reading lists, banned books... We often think of these as things relegated to the past.

Not so, according to the Book and Periodical Council's Freedom of Expression Committee. They're the team behind Freedom to Read Week, taking place this year between February 20 and 26. The committee says that even today the content of books and magazines come under scrutiny and are removed from library shelves and taken out of bookstores in Canada and around the world.

"There are challenges to books that are happening all the time," Bob LeDrew told Ottawa Morning host Kathleen Petty in a recent interview. "Just last January, a school board in California removed the dictionary from classrooms because [it] contained a definition for the term oral sex."

LeDrew is the co-organizer of Censored Out Loud, an event taking place on February 23 as part of the Freedom to Read Week celebrations in Ottawa. A cabaret-style event, the evening will feature performances of literary and musical work that has been censored or challenged in the past.

Censorship of literary and musical works has been in the news lately. In early January, an American publisher sparked controversy when it announced plans to publish a new edition of Adventures of Hucklebeery Finn and Tom Sawyer that would replace the n-word with "slave." Later that month, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled that the song Money for Nothing by the British rock band Dire Straits was unacceptable for play on Canadian radio due to its use of the word "faggot."

Whether that song will be performed at the cabaret, LeDrew didn't say. It was clear, however, that although some of the work might be seen as scandalous, some of it won't.

"There's an incredible variety of work that is going to be performed," he said. "Everything from James Joyce's Ulysses, to The Golden Compass trilogy by Philip Pullman, to Gone with the Wind."

You can find more about Freedom to Read Week and a full calendar of events across the country on their website.

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