Twenty eighteen marks our 34th year of publishing the Freedom to Read review. In each year, censorship demands our attention with renewed vigour. In an era of threatened fundamental freedoms, it’s crucial to know the challenges to, and the victories for, free expression and the freedom to read. The review is a long-standing part of this vital conversation. Here are a few highlights from this year’s issue.
Dorothy Macnaughton is our 2018 freedom to read champion. She has spent the past two decades fighting to improve the availability of accessible reading materials for Canadians who have a visual, physical or learning disability that prevents them from reading conventional print. Writer Mark Leiren-Young talked to Macnaughton about her passion for the written word and her advocacy work with CNIB and other organizations (page 10).
Last year, we told you about three Canadian organizations that work to protect our freedom to read. In “Defenders of Free Expression” (page 9), Lauren Matera highlights more heroes who deserve your attention. She also wrote “Nightmare Visions” (page 12), a look at the recent resurgence of interest in dystopian novels. Her article revisits five classic works whose themes of censorship and totalitarianism have never felt more pressing.
We’re pleased to see the growing body of literature with LGBTQ themes for children and young adults. However, in 2016, the American Library Association’s top five challenged books all contained LGBTQ content. In “You’re Letting My Child Read What?!” (page 14), Robert Bittner examines what parents fear when their kids read about gender and sexual diversity. He also offers tips for teachers who want to provide more inclusive reading materials in the classroom.
Kirsten Wurmann looks at an aspect of freedom to read that we don’t often hear about: access to books and information in Canadian correctional institutions. In “The Right to Read: A Prison Story” (page 16), Wurmann calls attention to the lack of reading materials available to inmates, even though access to information, knowledge, books and a library is a basic right. Wurmann, a librarian herself, is a co-founder of the Canadian Prison Libraries Network, whose Right to Read statement was adopted by the Canadian Federation of Library Associations in September 2016.
In Quebec, many challenges to freedom of expression occurred in the last year. Our correspondent Charles Montpetit reports five stories that received little attention in the mainstream media. (See page 18.)
Our “Get Involved” section (page 19) invites you to learn, explore and act. Get ideas for Freedom to Read Week activities, peruse our list of censored and challenged books, and test your knowledge with our quiz. If you’re new to freedom-to-read issues, read our concise guide, “Understanding Challenges to Books and Magazines” (page 21). It’s a handy tool for teachers, librarians and others who seek to defend freedom of expression and the freedom to read.
On the cover, we’re thrilled to feature the work of Jeff Lemire, an award-winning Canadian illustrator and graphic novelist. His compelling design reimagines threats to freedom to read as a fantastical books-versus-beast conflict, and it reminds us that we must always be vigilant.
These are just samplings of Freedom to Read 2018. We hope you take in, learn from and act on the issues covered in this year’s kit. We can’t wait to hear how you’re celebrating Freedom to Read Week!
Poster and Cover Illustration: Jeff Lemire, 2017
New York Times–bestselling author Jeff Lemire is the award-winning writer and artist of the acclaimed graphic novels Essex County, Secret Path, Roughneck, The Underwater Welder and Sweet Tooth. He has written for dozens of comic book series including Green Arrow, the Justice League and Moon Knight for DC and Marvel, Descender and Plutona for Image Comics, and Black Hammer for Dark Horse. He lives in Toronto. Follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffLemire and at jefflemire.blogspot.ca.