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 free online four-week 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.

Participants will join interactive workshops to learn how to defend intellectual freedom and combat censorship in their schools and communities. They will have the opportunity to create their own advocacy resources; and to meet student activists and parents fighting book bans as well as the authors of banned books.

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.

To apply, click here. Applications are due January 19. There is no cost to apply, and the program is free.

Thursdays, February 2 – 23, 2023,
5 to 6:45 p.m. ET/4 to 5:45 p.m. CT

The program is online. More details here


Ashley Hope Pérez, author

Reshman Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code and the Marshall Plan for Moms, best-selling author and activist

Jen Cousins, co-founder Florida Freedom to Read Project

Christina Ellis, student activist

Edha Gupta, student activist

Brooke Harper, parent and activist

Jack Petocz, student activist


Across the country, there is an ongoing and alarming rise in book bans and censorship. The PEN America report titled Banned in the US, notes that from July 2021 to June 2022 there were 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, affecting 1,648 unique book titles. And Brooklyn Public Library has received nearly 6000 inquiries from teens—who are often caught in the middle of debates among parents, teachers, and legislators—to access their free national e-card, no questions asked.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Founded in 1922, PEN America works to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others.


Brooklyn Public Library is the force behind Books Unbanned, a nationwide campaign to provide young people free access to books without restriction. The librarians and staff behind the program are Library Journal’s librarians of the year. 

Brooklyn Public Library is one of the nation’s largest library systems and among New York City’s most democratic institutions. As a leader in developing modern 21st-century libraries, we provide resources to support personal advancement, foster civic literacy, and strengthen the fabric of community among the more than 2.7 million individuals who call Brooklyn home. We provide nearly 60,000 free programs a year with writers, thinkers, artists, and educators—from around the corner and around the world. We give patrons millions of opportunities to enjoy one of life’s greatest satisfactions: the joy of a good book.