“There are worse crimes than burning books,” said Russian poet Joseph Brodsky. “One of them is not reading them.”

Freedom to Read Week 2013One of the things I’m a huge advocate for is Literacy, with a capital L. And Freedom to Read Week embodies not only literacy, but Democracy too. February 25 – March 2, 2013 is Freedom To Read Week 2013.

As the Freedom to Read Week website states: “Freedom to read can never be taken for granted. Even in Canada, a free country by world standards, books and magazines are banned at the border. Schools and libraries are regularly asked to remove books and magazines from their shelves. Free expression on the Internet is under attack. Few of these stories make headlines, but they affect the right of Canadians to decide for themselves what they choose to read.”

The thing is, the freedom to read is not only about having access to books that may have sexually explicit language, or “anti-God” messages, it is about the diversity of opinions and the ability to choose for yourself. When someone starts banning books and dictating what you can and cannot know/read, that is censorship rearing its ugly head.

I fully believe that people who oppose these materials should be able to voice their opinion. Just as there are books and messages in the world that I don’t approve of. But if these are not inherently harmful (ie: a book promoting a criminal act) then they have every bit of right to exist as the next book. A good example would be the recent controversy over the Scientology book.

For about a year, Canadian news media has been reporting that Federal scientists are being muzzled from speaking to the press about climate change and other environmental issues such as salmon stocks and biodiversity. In fact, Canada has fallen from 10th place to 20th place on the Reporters’ Without Borders’ international Press Freedom Index.

Freedom to Read is about freedom to access information, various viewpoints, and freedom of speech. Let’s celebrate those rights and remember that even in a developed nation, these are still important democratic issues.