Freedom to Read Advocacy Institute Logo


Thursdays, February 2 – 23, 2023

4:00pm – 5:45pm CT / 5:00 pm – 6:45pm ET


PEN America and Brooklyn Public Library are teaming up to co-host the first-ever Freedom to Read Advocacy Institute for the spring 2023 semester! This online, four-part 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 Institute’s weekly schedule will include interactive workshops designed to teach tangible skills and activities for students to dive deeper into the issues with their peers. Participants will cap their experiences by attending a final keynote panel and discussion with authors of banned books where students will share original advocacy resources as their final projects. Student registrants may attend as many of the four sessions as they would like, however, full attendance and participation are required to receive a certificate of professional achievement from PEN America and Brooklyn Public Library. Those who earn a certificate will be invited to join a cohort of “Freedom to Read Ambassadors” to lead future advocacy opportunities against book bans and educational censorship.

This program is FREE and available to all high school students. The admissions deadline for this program has passed and capacity has been reached.  Be the first to hear about upcoming Freedom to Read student programs by joining our mailing list at 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 meeting rules and formats
  • Explore different 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.



Featured Guest Speakers




Jen Cousins Headshot

Activist and co-Founder of Florida Freedom to Read Project




Christina Ellis Headshot

Student Activist




Edha Gupta Headshot

Student Activist




Brooke Harper Headshot

Parent, Advocate, Educator, and Arts Professional



Headshot of Ashley Hope Pérez





Headshot of Jack Petocz

Student Activist




Reshma Saujani Headshot

Activist, Author, and Founder of Girls Who Code and Marshall Plan for Moms


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 Assistant, Free Expression and Education


Brooklyn Public Library Speakers and Staff




Brooklyn Public Library Logo

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



Lester Kenton

Robin Lester Kenton

Vice President of Communications




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 enrolment.

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]