Banned Books Week 4 Teens

Wow, summer flew by super fast! (I think I say that every year.) I hope you all had a really good summer and tried some of my teen summer crafts programs and activities, but now it's time to start thinking about the fall. This is the time of year when I start to think about Banned Books Week (BBW) and all the fun things I want to do for teen BBW programming and displays. This year, Banned Books Week will be from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1.

First launched in 1982, BBW is a weeklong celebration that highlights the benefits of intellectual freedom and draws attention to censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted banning of books across the United States, including books commonly taught in middle and high schools. I have always loved teaching teens about Banned Books Week and censorship and seeing kids' faces when they hear that some of their favorite books have made it onto the challenged or banned lists.  

Here are some ideas to help you celebrate Banned Books Week with your tweens and teens at the library!

Games & activities

Banned Books Week Brown Bag Game books
An example from the Simmons University Brown Bag Display, listing reasons why Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" has been banned.

I created the Banned Books Brown Bag Game after I saw this Brown Bag Display that Katie Beth Ryan featured on the Simmons University SLIS blog. The game focuses on the reasons why books are challenged or banned and can create a lot of excellent and intelligent discussion with your teens.

First, create a list of about 10 YA books that have either been challenged or banned; check out the ALA’s list of frequently challenged books to get started. Most of these will be on the shelf at your library. Next, gather 10 brown paper bags and, for each book, write the reasons that the book has been banned. These reasons are listed next to each title on the ALA list linked above, and vary from explicit language or violence, to sexual content, to objection to content based on religious viewpoints. Then cover each book with the brown paper bag that lists the reasons it was banned. Have teens gather around and try to guess the titles of the books according to the reasons it was banned.  

You can also join in on ALA's Virtual Read-Outand post a video to the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out YouTube channel. This is a fun and easy way to celebrate BBW, by filming teens reading a challenged or banned book or talking about what a frequently challenged or banned book means to them. More ideas and instructions are available here. Let's get our creativity caps on and come up with some really awesome videos!


Have fun with an Adopt a Banned Book program by using Duke University's Adopt-a-Book Program. Make a list of frequently challenged or banned YA banned books that teens would like to adopt. Make a poster with the covers of the books and list the reason why and where it was banned. The cost of the adoption could be ten Jolly Ranchers or one Snickers or three chocolate chip cookies. Post cute stickers that say things like, "This banned book was adopted by Simon Stinger, 9/27/16," or "This generous gift of three cookies will support the freedom to read." This will be a fun way for teens to see what books have been banned and why, and also for them to join in and practice the principles of intellectual freedom.

Display this list of banned books and ask teens to find and post a photo of the book cover to Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat (whichever method you use at your library for teens), along with the reason why it has been challenged or banned. Have them use the hashtag #bannedbooksweek to tie it into ALA's efforts to spread the word about intellectual freedom. This is a great way to get teens to look up ALA's Most Frequently Challenged Books, and to learn more about the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Host a Read-In. I see this program as very much like a poetry slam, which I have done successfully with teens in the past. For this program, I would set up a podium where teens read their favorite lines from banned books. A few great books to read passages from are "The Witches" by Roald Dahl, "Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger, "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton and "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding.  


Here are three craft ideas to try for BBW:

Banned Books Tote Bags: I was inspired by Colleen Jorgensen's blog post that lists 21 ways to make and decorate tote bags. It would be so much fun to provide tote bags to teens and have them design their own bag with some of the famous BBW sayings like "I Read Banned Books,” "Keep Calm & Read Banned Books," or "Censorship Causes Blindness.”

Upcycled Book Pages: Grab some of the books your library has weeded from its circulating collection and follow this how-to from Jeanette Wyberg's Craftwhack blog to make a cool orb made out of old book pages.  

Recycled Book Page Art: In another use for weeded titles, DIY blogger Dinah shows how to make these amazing pieces of art by using pages of old books. Teens will love to create their own designs by using paint, markers, colored pencils and pastels. Another idea could be to use old postcards and photos to add to the pages of the books. I've seen artists that use old books as their portfolios and keep all of their art nice and safe inside the pages of a book.  


Check out my Banned Books Week 4 Teens page on the Contra Costa County Library website, and if you are looking for fun display ideas take a look at my Banned Books Week Pinterest Board.

Tune in next month for tips, tricks, and ideas for teen programming from Mrs. Librarian Lady!