Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Strike Yer Colors! There Be Pirates Here! Arrrrr! (TPIB: Talk Like a Pirate Day)

Arrrghhhh! September is always a fun month programming-wise.  You have Banned Book Week, you have National Library Card Sign-up Month, you have all the Back-To-School activities, you have International Make Your Mark Day (September 15th-ish, see blog post here) but my absolute favorite program to do in September is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.


September 19, 2012 is the 10th anniversary of Talk Like a Pirate Day, and HOW can you let this programming opportunity pass you by?  It’s perfect for all ages, because of the wide variety of crafts, activities, and movies that you can show; and if you’re like me, you are responsible for more than just the teen population. 


For starters, have your kids hoist their own colors by making their own Jolly Roger flag.  Print out and copy a variety of skulls, bones, swords, and other emblems that can be found on pirate flags, and then have your kids cut out and color them to their tastes.  Then glue them onto squares of vibrant copy paper, or go traditional and use black construction paper.
If that’s not enough craft-ivities for your programming time, take butcher paper or colored copy paper and have kids cut raggedly along the edges so that the edges look worn.  Then take black crayons or markers, and have them draw their own pirate maps.  This would be a perfect time to make collection connections and have your pirate books rotating around during craft time to use as examples.  Then to make the secret X, you can have them dip a paint brush in a mixture of lemon juice and water- it won’t stain clothes, and when it dries it won’t show up on the paper.  Only waving it over a light bulb will cause the treasure to reveal itself.  (Karen’s tip: you can soak paper in coffee or tea and let it dry to have it get that worn, weary look).
If you have tweens/teens, have them make pirate booty by stringing different colors of pony beads and gold beads onto lengths of cord.  Or have them make hemp, sailor’s knots, or braided bracelets.  If you’re really ambitious, throw a temporary tattoo or henna party in conjunction with pirate day- just remember that with this type of program, a permission slip is often recommended.
Games are always a hit with my kids.  Pirate Fluxx is a fun card game with ever-changing rules, and works with up to 8 players at a time.  Have a Talk Like a Pirate contest, with the best Pirate talker winning a prize.  Or modify the game Assassin for a pirate theme:  one of the crew has the deadly black mark, but can they figure out who has it before the marked one takes out the rest of the crew? 

You can put together your own “treasure chest” – actually a time capsule – and bury it.  Come back in 1, 5 or 10 years and unearth it.

Have a pirate costume relay race.  Get a variety of scarves, hats, etc.  Place them all together at one end of your room and have teens relay race to dress up the designated person as the best pirate.  Or do a Project Runway type of pirate fashion show.  Don’t forget, you can buy plain bandannas and use fabric markers or pain to make pirate scarves.  If you are really adventurous, you can do tie-dying.  But you can also do no mess tie-dye with permanent markers and rubbing alcohol.

I have always wanted to do a can stacking event and use it as an opportunity to encourage teens to give back to their community.  You can have teens bring canned goods to donate to the local food shelter as their admittance “fee” and then see if they can build a pirate ship out of the cans.  This is called CANstruction: making sculpture out of stacking cans.  If the cans scare you, or you don’t have space, you can always have races to see who can build a pirate ship out of Legos.

For a great passive program for tweens and teens, have a pirate themed scavenger hunt using the library’s collection.  They could pick up the scavenger list at the teen or reference desk, search to find the proper books that have the items, and return for their pirate booty (or scan the library for QR codes and get their clues).  And absolutely give each person their own pirate name- there are numerous pirate name generators online, and anyone with a smart phone can walk around during the program and attach a nametag to each participant. 
With Talk Like a Pirate Day being a Wednesday this year, my kids are coming straight from school and sitting most of the day- which makes for jittery and wiggly kids.  If your kids are anything like mine, they want constant stimulation, and if you have a movie license, showing movies is an excellent way to balance things out.  Those who finish early can watch the movie, those who need more time can have all the time they need without feeling like they’re holding things up for others.  Movies like The Goonies, Peter Pan, Hook, and The Pirates:  Band of Misfits work with family programming, while the Pirates of the Caribbean series skews more toward an older tween/teen audience.
If you want to make sure everyone knows you are having an event, then email the Webwench (webwench@talklikeapirate.com) and they’ll add your event to the official map, and you can join the official Facebook, follow their Twitter, and add your photos to the Flickr as well.  If your library provides access to Mango Languages, it’s a wonderful day to promote the database as well- Mango has a Pirate Language tutorial.
So tell me’now, how will ye be celebratin’ Pirates Day?