PEN America’s Freedom to Read Community Summit – Orange County, California

Freedom to Read Community Summit Orange County


PEN America, Diversify Our Narrative, Friends of the Huntington Beach Public Library, the Golden State Readers, Public School Defenders Hub, and Women for American Values and Ethics (WAVE) are excited to announce our first Freedom to Read Community Summit in Orange County, California this April at UC Irvine! In this convening, community members will be welcomed to engage with each other and leaders from PEN America and our local partners in a series of workshops designed to discuss and counter growing threats to the freedom to read in Orange County and across California.

Join us in person at UC Irvine on Saturday, April 20 from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm as we begin with a presentation from PEN America that showcases the latest nationwide book ban data and assesses emerging censorship trends in California. A workshop organized by student leaders will then follow to cover effective youth engagement strategies for community members to consider during urgent crises and larger advocacy campaigns like Banned Books Week . Attendees will be treated to lunch over a guest authors panel, and they will be invited to also rotate through Advocacy Action Stations hosted by each of the event organizers. A keynote conversation on advocacy needs and strategies will close the program bringing together Huntington Beach City Council Member, Natalie Moser, and PEN America’s Los Angeles Director, Allison Lee.


  • This program is FREE and open to all ages.
  • Lunch will be provided.
  • Bring a book to give! The Golden State Readers are collecting diverse and banned books to send to students impacted by book bans nationwide.
  • Registration is required before April 19, 2024, at 11:59 pm PT. Capacity is limited so please register as soon as possible if you plan on attending.
  • Building, room, and parking info will be sent to registrants closer to the event. Parking fees up to $15 may apply.
  • If you have any questions, please email us at [email protected].






Start Time

End Time

Introductions and Ice Breaker Welcome Activity



Presentation: PEN America’s Latest on Book Bans in California and Nationwide



Workshop: The Role of Student Advocates in Defending the Freedom to Read in California featuring the Golden State Readers and Diversify Our Narrative



Lunch and Authors Panel featuring Celeste Pewter and Julia Walton



Advocacy Action Stations featuring Diversify Our Narrative, Golden State Readers, Friends of the Huntington Beach Library, PEN America, Public School Defenders Hub, and Women for American Values and Ethics



Keynote Conversation: Natalie Moser and Allison Lee



Program Closing and Group Photo






Council Member Natalie Moser, a lifelong Huntington Beach resident, is a dedicated mother, entrepreneur, and advocate for positive change. Elected in 2020, her drive stems from a deep love for her city, paired with extensive leadership experience. A Marina High School alum, Moser earned a BA in History from California State University, Long Beach, and an MBA from Chapman University. Transitioning from a successful career as an executive in financial services to entrepreneurship, she established a photography business while prioritizing her family. A breast cancer survivor, Moser actively contributes to her community, becoming a founding board member of the McKenna Claire Foundation for Pediatric Brain Cancer Research and volunteering extensively, earning her recognition as OVSD Volunteer of the Year in 2020. In her role as Council Member, she champions policies that foster environmental protection, tackle homelessness, enhance community wellness, and safeguard our fundamental access to books and information through supporting public institutions like libraries, ensuring the freedom to read and learn. Moser lives in Northwest Huntington Beach with her family and two dogs, continuing to make a significant impact on the community she holds dear.


celeste-pewter-headshotCeleste Pewter (also known as Jess Huang) is a former political staffer and political strategist. She holds a BA from UC Irvine in English Literature, an MA from King’s College London in War Studies, an MA from Johns Hopkins University in Global Security and Intelligence, and a Mandarin Language Certificate from Princeton University. Her work has been published on CNN, Teen Vogue, Marie Claire and Thrillist, and her debut middle grade non-fiction project Infinite Sky, will be published by Bloomsbury Children in 2026. Learn more at Follow her on IG at @celestepewter.


Julia Walton headshotJulia Walton is the award-winning author of Words on Bathroom Walls, Just Our Luck, and On the Subject of Unmentionable Things. She received an MFA in creative writing from Chapman University and a BA in history from UC Irvine. Julia lives with her husband and children in Huntington Beach, California Her first middle grade, Weirdly Walter, will be published October 22, 2024 by Harper Collins. Learn more at Follow her on IG @jwaltonwrites.





Diversify Our Narrative is a student-led 501(c)3 nonprofit that aims to empower tomorrow’s change-makers and build an anti-racist future through education nationwide. Read more about their work on their website here.


Friends of the Huntington Beach Public Library LogoFriends of the Huntington Beach Public Library is a volunteer, member supported, nonprofit organization that raises funds to focus public attention on the library, to enrich the libraries collection of books, digital and other resources; and to develop and expand innovative educational programs, library services, and community outreach. Read more about their work on their website here.


Freedom to Read Community Summit Orange CountyThe Golden State Readers are a growing network of students from across California committed to raising awareness about freedom-to-read issues nationwide. They work locally to educate, advocate, and fundraise to provide diverse and banned literature to students impacted by book bans. Follow their Instagram here.


The Public School Defenders Hub proactively reduces the proliferation and detrimental impacts of anti-public school extremists. They provide support to parents, organizers, activists, and school board member K-12 Public School Defenders on the ground. Read more about their work on their website here.


WAVE logo Women for American Values and Ethics (WAVE) is a diverse, nonpartisan organization that engages, educates, and empowers its members and the community to advance progressive American values and ethics. Read more about their work on their website here.