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Reading dangerously

Reading marathon draws crowd with banned books

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Greg Michaud, associate vice president of SAIT Learner Services, reads aloud from the children’s book Paper Bag Princess, a story that portrays the female as smart and strong as opposed to the traditional damsel in distress. Photo courtesy of Reg Erhardt Library

The Reg Erhardt Library managed to attract a substantial audience of daring readers for their Freedom to Read Week event on Feb. 28.

Freedom to Read Week lasted from Feb. 26 to March 4.

“Last year, it was more of a reading circle,” said Jim Gray, evening and weekend supervisor at the Reg Erhardt Library.

“This year, it was more of an event.”

Around 60 people attended the event in person, the Facebook Live video received 1,700 views and the student radio station provided live broadcasts.

Gray said the high attendance compared to last year was mainly due to increased advertising and working with instructors to get student involvement.

Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to take advantage of and be thankful for intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Freedom to read is something we as Canadians can sometimes take for granted,” Gray said.

“We need to be reminded that not everyone has the same freedoms, and we have the responsibility to protect our rights and to advocate for others.”

The library event began with presentations from Lambie Hamilton, editor-in-chief at The Weal; Pablo Zanetta, a SAIT SAIT Library team member and Ebony Magnus, a SAIT Library assessment and user-experience librarian.

“The presentations looked at the importance of intellectual freedom to journalists and library professionals,” Gray said.

“Our presenters also shared personal stories about why the freedom to read is important to them.”

Zanetta, for example, talked about how his family had lived in Chile during the Pinochet coup. During this coup, the country was transformed virtually overnight from a free and democratic society to one of severe government censorship.

After the presenters finished, the Epic Reading Marathon began.

The marathon consisted of 18 people each reading aloud from their favourite banned book, including Fahrenheit 451, The Golden Compass, Harry Potter, The Handmaid’s Tale and Peter Pan.

Gray said his favourite part of the event was the readings. The reading for The Fault in Our Stars convinced him to read the book himself.

“It’s kind of amazing to see how engaged the readers are and how that translates to the audience.”

The entire event lasted five hours and fifteen minutes.

Gray said the library would continue to have Freedom to Read Week next year.

“I’d just like everyone to exercise their freedom to read,” Gray said. “Read something that someone, somewhere believes you should not be allowed to.”

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