Banned Books Week can be a difficult one to plan active programs for. In many cases, it ends up as a passive display, even if the display is beautiful and amazing. For the past couple years I have been trying to amp up my Banned Books Week program ideas so it is more than just a display. Here are some of the ideas I have come across over the years.
Maybe at the very least, it can get your creative juices flowing.
The program I am the most excited for is Meet Hermione Granger. I hired a character actor to come to the library as Hermione and each child will get to take a photo with her, have the photo printed, and autographed. Not only does the actress look like Hermione, she will be acting the role as well. This could be done in person, though the business that I am working with does provide virtual storytimes & video visits too.
One of my colleagues was recently on Jeopardy, so trivia is all the rage in my community. Before the pandemic, we used to do pub trivia in a local tavern but now we do online trivia over Zoom. General trivia is fun but themed trivia is even more popular. Of course you could do a Banned Book themed trivia night! Or make it more specific: Twilight Trivia, Hunger Games Trivia, Goosebumps Trivia, maybe even Books We Read in High School Trivia.
Banned Book craft programs could be done in-person or as a take home kit. This is a fun way to celebrate the freedom to read with young children. It can be more challenging to think of creative ways to celebrate Banned Books Week in the children’s department, but it is always so worth it when you hear a child discussing the First Amendment with their parents in the library. If you do it as a take home kit, you can also sneak in the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement. I know those documents are part of my grand prizes for those who guess what Banned Book I have shredded up in a jar (don’t worry, it was water damaged and slated for withdrawal anyways) this year.
Anyways, Where the Wild Things Are has many simple and cheap crafting options. Paper plate based crafts, paper bag based crafts, or sparkly Max crown crafts. Roald Dahl’s books also lend themselves to easy art projects. There are giant peach crafts, lollipop crafts, fantastic fox crafts, and BFG ear crafts. You could include older children with Harry Potter based crafts as well. Create your own wands, plant your own mandrake, brew up some potions, or Hogwarts house themed friendship bracelets, or dragon egg crafts. Some books are better for crafting than others, but I am sure you can think of even more than me. You can increase your library’s social media reach by encouraging patrons to send pictures of completed crafts to you or tag you in their own social media posts.
Niki Covello-Moreno from Illinois posted her library’s Battle of the Banned Books program in the Celebrating Banned Books Week Facebook Group. Their program is running in person though I am sure the same thing could be replicated on Beanstack or similar software. The battle runs for the whole month of September and patrons get their voting tickets at the Circulation Desk. There are sixteen books in the battle. Each community would have its own unique Battle of the Banned Books winner, which would be interesting data.
Another pandemic proof idea is a community discussion, which could be done in-person or virtually on Zoom. I am holding a youth community discussion about Censorship and Anne Frank. To facilitate discussion, I am using the Digital Lesson on Anne Frank from the Anne Frank Haus. In order to make the program more interactive, I applied for a Virtual Teaching Trunk from the Illinois Holocaust Museum. Many educational resources have pivoted to in-person, hybrid, and virtual only resources, so take a look at your local resources.
Anne is not the only topic though. I was thinking of a Banned Books Week themed discussion on mental health. Not only could you highlight the books challenged for featuring tough mental health topics like suicide or substance use disorder but you can also partner with local mental health organizations and boost their visibility in the community. These discussions could be on topics most people generally agree upon (ex: censoring Anne Frank for being “a real downer” is not great) or more current controversial topics (ex: police in our community or cancel culture).
If we can make the act of censorship come alive, we highlight more than just the physical books themselves that get banned or challenged. To me, that is the point of Banned Books Week. As they say, where they burn books, they will also end up burning people. This is our time to shine and show how we protect the people’s freedom to read. Happy Banned Books Week, fellow library workers!
Holly Eberle is the Youth Technology Librarian at the Algonquin Area Public Library District in northern Illinois and a member of the Intellectual Freedom Committee. She received her MLIS from the University of Illinois in December 2015. Her passion for the intellectual freedom rights of youth began in kindergarten when her elementary school library pulled the Goosebumps series off the shelves. She also is interested in the technological realm of intellectual freedom and privacy issues.