*FREE* Online Certificate Program

Thursdays, October 19 – November 9, 2023

7:00 pm – 9:00pm ET


PEN America and the Brooklyn Public Library are teaming up to co-host the return of our Freedom to Read Advocacy Institute for the fall 2023 semester! This online, four-week educational and training program for high school students will prepare and certify the next generation of free expression advocates to combat book banning and fight for the freedom to read in their schools, libraries and communities across the country.

The weekly schedule will include presentations delivered by professional literary and students’ rights activists, interactive workshops designed to teach tangible skills, and simulation activities to dive deeper into the issues with their peers. Participants will cap their experiences by attending a final keynote panel and discussion with several authors of banned books and submitting written advocacy commitment essays as final projects. Students who successfully complete the program will also be granted a certificate of professional achievement in freedom to read advocacy from PEN America and Brooklyn Public Library.


Featuring Special Guests:




Alex Gino headshot

Award-winning Author of “Melissa” and Activist


George M.


George M. Johnson headshot

Award-winning Author of “All Boys Aren’t Blue”, Activist, Executive Producer, and Journalist




Rainesford Stauffer Headshot

Freelance Writer, Journalist, Kentuckian, and Author of “All the Gold Stars and An Ordinary Age”




Christina Ellis headshot

York County Pennsylvania Student Activist



Edha Gupta Headshot

York County Pennsylvania Student Activist

Anais and

mirabelle lee

Anais and Mirabelle Lee headshot

Golden State Readers Student Activists, Actors, and Sisters



Zander Moricz headshot

Founder and Executive Director, The Social Equity through Education Alliance


This program is FREE and available to all high school students. Admissions will be accepted on a rolling basis through the program starting this Thursday, October 19. If you have any questions, email us at [email protected].





Build the knowledge and skills you need to fight book bans.

  • Get to know the First Amendment, students’ rights, and the history of book bans in America
  • Evaluate advocacy tactics against book bans in classrooms, school libraries, public libraries
  • Learn how to navigate school board meetings
  • Explore community engagement strategies like protests and canvassing as advocacy tools against book bans
  • Meet other youth free expression advocates fighting book bans nationwide



Design advocacy resources with your peers.

Throughout the Freedom to Read Advocacy Institute, participants will work together to develop original advocacy resources to share with other students fighting book bans. At the end of the course, participants will present their projects to their fellow advocates as well as staff from PEN America and Brooklyn Public Library.


PEN America Speakers and Staff




Director, Free Expression and Education Programs





Program Director, Freedom to Read





headshot of Nicholas Perez

Program Manager, Free Expression and Education





Peris Tushabe headshot

Program Coordinator, Free Expression and Education


Brooklyn Public Library Speakers and Staff




Summer Boismier Headshot

Teen Initiatives Project Manager




Headshot of Jackson Gomes

YA Internship Coordinator




Nick Higgins

Chief Librarian





Coordinator of School Outreach Services



Karen Keys

Coordinator of Young Adult Services




Amy Mikel

Director of Customer Experience

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to register?
The program is open to students in any year of high school.

Who should consider applying?
This Institute is ideal for students interested in advocacy against book bans in the United States. This Institute is also highly recommended for students pursuing academic and professional careers in activism, communications, humanities, journalism, and philosophy among other related subjects.

Do I have to attend all four sessions?
Students may attend however many of the four sessions they would like to, however, full attendance, participation, and project completion are required to receive a certificate and become a “Freedom to Read Ambassador”. No matter how many sessions a student plans on attending, registration is required by submitting an application to participate.

Do I have to be in the United States to participate?
No. Although focused specifically on book bans in the United States, the Institute is accessible to students anywhere in the world, via Zoom, and taught in English. Students must be available to attend all meeting sessions, which are listed in Eastern Time.

How will I know if I’ve been admitted?
Once you submit your application for admission, you will receive an email confirmation with a copy of your form responses. On a rolling basis, we will reach out to admitted applicants with the next steps for enrollment.

How much does the program cost?
There is no cost to attend this program, however, full attendance is required to receive a certificate at the end of the course.

Will I receive any school credit for the Institute?
Neither high school nor college credit will be granted for completing the Institute unless otherwise determined by a sponsoring institution. PEN America and Brooklyn Public Library will, however, award each student a Certificate of Professional Achievement in Freedom to Read Advocacy upon completion of the course and the program offers excellent preparation and a relevant credential for future internships and work opportunities in the policy and advocacy realm. 

Will there be any homework assigned?
Background readings may be assigned that students are expected to complete before the start of each session. Throughout the program, students may be expected to work outside of instructional hours on research projects and assignments.

What supplies do I need to attend the Institute?
To participate in the Institute, students must have a working computer, a reliable internet connection, an email address for communication, and a Zoom account, which can be set up for free online. A notebook to write in as well as some writing utensils are also recommended for note-taking, and a printer is optional for printing out the reading materials for annotating.

Who are the instructors?
The Institute administration is managed by Nicholas “Niko” Perez and Peris Tushabe from PEN America’s Free Expression and Education program. The weekly schedule includes presentations and workshops from a range of experts and professionals across both PEN America and Brooklyn Public Library, including well-known researchers, advocates, and authors.


If you have any other questions, please email us at [email protected].