Banned Books Week Programming Ideas

Banned Books Week is a national event celebrating the importance of reading and the freedom of the First Amendment. First launched in 1982, it was held in response to an increase in the number of books challenged by schools, libraries and bookstores.

Often, book challenges are motivated by a desire to protect children from "inappropriate" sexual content, "offensive" language or material that is "unsuited to any age group". However, this week celebrates the availability of material and ideas that may be considered unusual or unorthodox. This ensures that the viewpoints of all are accessible to those who wish to learn more.

This annual event during the last week of September highlights the benefits of open access to information and the harms of book censorship across the US. Each year, bookstores and libraries celebrate by acting out scenes from the challenged books, hosting movie marathons, censorship debates, author signings, banned book sculptures and more. For more information on Banned Books Week, visit

Here are some of the most popular banned books celebrated during Banned Books Week and their corresponding movies:

Banned or Controversial BookRelated MovieRating
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God NR
Ulysses by James Joyce Ulysses NR
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson Bridge to Terabithia PG
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren All the King’s Men (2006) PG
The Witches by Roald Dahl The Witches PG
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne Easy A PG-13
Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence Women in Love R
The Awakening by Kate Chopin The Awakening R
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron Sophie’s Choice R
Lord of the Flies by Sir William Golding Lord of the Flies R
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote In Cold Blood R
1984 by George Orwell 1984 R
Beloved by Toni Morrison Beloved R
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange R
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown The Da Vinci Code PG13
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell How to Eat Fried Worms PG
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier The Chocolate War R
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl James and the Giant Peach PG
Matilda by Roald Dahl Matilda PG
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis American Psycho R
Maurice by E.M. Forster Maurice R
Lord of the Flies by William Golding Lord of the Flies R
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton The Outsiders PG
From Here to Eternity by James Jones From Here to Eternity NR (1972)
Carrie by Stephen King Carrie R
Cujo by Stephen King Cujo R
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee To Kill A Mockingbird G
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell Gone with the Wind NR (1939)
Beloved by Toni Morrison Beloved R
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov Lolita NR (1962)
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling Harry Potter Series PG & PG13
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck Of Mice and Men PG13
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom’s Cabin NR (1927)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain Huckleberry Finn G
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain Tom Sawyer G
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vannegut Slaughterhouse Five R
The Color Purple by Alice Walker The Color Purple PG-13
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games PG-13

Programming ideas:

Make a display with as many books as you can, complete with place cards explaining why each book was challenged. Have your patrons vote on which banned book turned movie they would like to see. Count the results and have a special movie showing of the chosen film during Banned Books Week.

Schedule a movie event for each night of Banned Books Week featuring a popular banned or challenged book and its corresponding movie.

Host a panel on censorship and intellectual freedom featuring a banned book author, a public librarian and a public school librarian. At the event, show the movie version of the book being discussed.

Start a banned book club where a new book is read and discussed each month. After the group finishes each book, treat them to a special showing of the movie version.

Hold an essay contest asking your patrons what books they would save and why. Award the winner a gift basked complete with pens, notebooks, snacks and banned books. Kick off the contest with a night of films based on banned books.

Banning Discussion Featuring Different Libraries: Bring together school board members and officials with librarians for a enlightening discussion about the content of books each carries and how concerns are addressed.

Collage of Censorship: Create book covers of this year's banned books and create a colorful collage. If patrons are exposed to the "bad" books, there's a chance they'll raise curiosity and want to read it.

Scandalous Banned Film Series: Show a film based on a banned book for each night of the weeklong celebration. Great choices are A Clockwork Orange, Brokeback Mountain, Gone With the Wind, the Harry Potter Series or the Twilight films.

Banned Book Mystery Quiz: Wrap several of the banned books on your shelves in black paper. Stick labels describing what each of the titles was banned for and have patrons guess which title is under the wrapping. Give the winner a copy of this year's most banned title.

Book 'em Activity: Create rap sheets for the authors who others have tried to silence and hang them around different library sections. Use a "mug shot" of the author or the book cover, complete with a list of "crimes" his or her writing has committed.


Need Help?

Can't find what you're looking for? Visit our FAQ Page .


New & Upcoming Releases

Proud ALA Member