September 23 – 29 is Banned Books Week (BBW), which is arguably the best time of the year for librarians because it’s when we can be loud about the freedom to read and the fight against censorship. Freedom and censorship are such timely issues, and BBW gives teens an opportunity to see reading as an act both radical and revolutionary.
The downside to BBW is that it comes right after summer reading AND back-to-school season, which leaves most of us drained of time and energy. Luckily, ALA has tons of free resources, graphics, printouts, and more available online that can be used for program inspiration, and you can find even more from the Banned Books Week coalition here.
Here’s a round-up of easy programs that you can throw together the week or two before BBW:
- Banned Books Week Jewelry: This was a big success at my library last year and I’ll be doing it again last year. We took scanned images of book jackets & resized them so they were an inch tall & then followed this online tutorial for the rest. Last year we provided a variety of all different book covers but this year we’ll just be doing the top 10 most challenged books of last year; we provide jump rings, earring hooks, and keychain rings. This one works best if you have most of the supplies already cut & ready to assemble, so it is a bit of prep.
- Coloring: this can be a passive program (just leave the sheets & coloring supplies in your teen area) or an actual program (which I’d recommend combining with another activity). ALA has some free downloadable coloring sheets, and you may also be able to find some other book-specific coloring sheets/books online.
- Create art/writing: Gather all of your supplies & have a craft buffet where teens can create art or writing pieces inspired by BBW: what the freedom to read means to them, how they fight against censorship, or fanart/fanfiction of their favorite banned/challenged book. Afterwards, the art can be displayed on your teen room wall.
- Book protest signs: This is an easy craft to do with your Teen Advisory Board or teen volunteers. Use popsicle sticks & index cards to make signs that say “I was banned!” or other messages, and then have your teens go around sticking them in banned/challenged books. Another easy variation is decorating brown lunch bags to say “Caution: Banned Book inside” and put them over books for a display to entice curious library users.
PASSIVE AND/OR LOW-PREP:
- Dear Banned Author Letter-Writing: This letter-writing campaign is hosted by ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and encourages readers to write letters to their favorite banned or challenged authors to say what their books mean to them. Leave some paper & envelopes in your teen space with information about the campaign, and teens can create their own letters to take with them and mail. There’s more info & resources here, including where to send letters and printable BBW postcards.
- Interactive boards: Put up a sheet of butcher paper in your teen space with a question inviting teens to write or draw responses on it. Some questions you could try are: “what’s your favorite banned book?,” “What does the freedom to read mean to you?,” “What would a life without reading be like?,” or “What book would you fight to keep at the library?”
- Movie screening: If your library has a movie licensing subscription, playing a movie adaptation of a banned/challenged book is such an easy program that requires very little prep. Some banned or challenged books that have movie adaptations include: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Hunger Games, A Wrinkle in Time, The Fault in Our Stars, and The Maze Runner (and there are tons more!). This is also a great time to offer coloring sheets for teens to do while they watch.
- Learn about BBW around the library: No time for any program but still want to get your teens interested in BBW? Print out flyers (I love using Canva for easy graphics) with statistics about banned books, or quotes from famous banned books, and put them up around the library. These flyers can direct teens to ask a librarian about BBW, or to a BBW book display.
- Read-a-thon: have attendees sign up for a time slot, where they read aloud from a banned or challenged book. You can have a cart of all sorts of banned books for them to choose from, or you could focus on the most challenged books of the year,or just challenged/banned YA books. It’s also fun to give participants a certificate or button when they finish reading. This is a really flexible program because you can make it long or short depending on how many sign-ups you get.
- Book talks: Booktalk a few banned or challenged YA books that you have at your library. This would be a perfect time for public teen librarians and high school librarians to partner up and do lunchtime booktalks, or to visit an English class. Try booktalking a mix of older classics, newer YA, and graphic novels.
- Book discussions: Pick one book to discuss, or invite teens to bring their favorite banned/challenged book (I suggest providing them with a list, since many teens may not realize that their favorite books have been challenged!). Talk about why they were banned/challenged, and ways to use your voice to support the freedom to read.
Let us know in the comments what you’re doing for Banned Books Week this year.