Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Teen Services 101: So You Want to Do Teen Programming, but What About the Books?

On Monday as part of our ongoing Teen Services 101 discussion we talked specifically about teen programming in public libraries and I said something kind of controversial: It’s hard to host a successful teen book discussion group/club in a public library. Note I didn’t say it’s impossible, but I did say it was hard and I stand by that statement. But there are a lot of ways that you can tie reading and literature into programming and today I’m going to share a few of my favorites.

Popular Book/Book Character Events

I’m old enough to remember when Harry Potter parties were the biggest game in town. I’ve also hosted Rick Riordan inspired Olympians camps, Hunger Games events, and Divergent programs, just to name a few. When The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was big we literally sent a pair of blue jeans around to all the branches and had teens sign them. An Alice in Wonderland inspired mad hatter tea party is a blast! There are so many ways that you can tie books in with programming.

An Alice in Wonderland quote put into a graphic and made into a t-shirt. I told you, I’ve made a lot of t-shirts for teen programs. I did not, for the record, design this graphic.

You can find tie-in events to go with any book. Does the main character do photoraphy? Have a photo making event or paint photo frames. Does the main character sing? Have a karoake party. Take, for example, the graphic novel The Cardboard Kingdom. The title alone is a great event, just have tweens and teens create mini-kingdoms out of cardboard or have them make cardboard armor. You can use MakeDo kits to help make this happen. Find things within the book to inspire activities for your book based events.

A teen models a cardboard helmet made by Morgan, TMS Assistant at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County

If you’re feeling uninspired, you can go by the standby of trivia and viewing parties (as long as you have a public performance license). Or use the elements of the book to create your own Escape Room.

Book Inspired Crafts

I like to tie reading and the YA collection to various craft activities. For example, I’m a big fan of digital media and I have taught teens how to create their own memes and put their favorite quotes on them. I’ve also challenged teens to turn their photos into their own interpretations of their favorite book covers. You can do a lot with a smart phone and a few apps.

Almost any craft activity can be book themed if you add a quote or an image that represents a book.

Just a few of the various book related crafts you can do:

  • Put your favorite quote on a meme using digital media
  • Put your favorite book quote on a blank canvas
  • Make a triptych to describe your favorite book by taking a series of 3 pictures that represent the book
  • Use digital media to make book trading cards
  • Use stop motion or video creation software to create your own book trailers
  • Put your favorite book quote on a book tote or t-shirt
  • Make postcards inspired by your favorite books
  • Make a specific book themed photo booth. For example, you can make Harry Potter props for a Harry Potter themed photo booth
  • Or make a Book Face photo booth

Making Mini Books

There are tons of great books out there that teach you how to make your own mini books and journals. These make for fun programs that get teens thinking about books and writing. Again, you can use digital media or some other art form to put your favorite book inspired quotes on the cover.

Other Things You Can Do:

The Penguin Random House Post it Note book wall at BEA 2019
  • Make space on the wall for teens to share book recommendations via Post It Notes
  • Book spine poetry
  • Black out poetry
  • Turn book covers and graphic novel pages into buttons with a button maker
  • Use a comic book app or blank comic book pages and graphic novel panels to have teens create their own comics and graphic novels
  • Want to promote historical fiction? Host a retro party with retro crafts, games and activities. Books set in the 1980s are now historical fiction, so have fun with that!
  • Want to promote fantasy? Dragon crafts, fairy gardens and DIY crowns are just a few of the activities that you can do
  • Want to promote science fiction? Galaxy slime, galaxy jars and DIY lava lamps are just a few of the activities that you can do

There are over 100 teen programs outlined here at TLT and many of them can easily be given a book related spin. You can also browse through the Teen Programming tag to find ideas. Pinterest and other librarian blogs can also be your friend. I have a regular routine with a variety of blogs and library websites I check periodically to see what everyone else is doing.

When promoting your programs, be sure to put up a display of If You Liked, Try . . . book that go along with your theme. That’s another great way to tie books and reading into programming.

The truth is, every program we do can be tied in with books in some way and can be used to promote our collections and to help cultivate a lifelong interest in books and reading. Programming doesn’t have to be book clubs and discussions to be literary and promote reading. There is nothing wrong with book clubs and discussions, but we need a variety of programming to get a variety of people to engage with our collections. Programming doesn’t take away from our collections and it doesn’t prevent us from creating a book centered culture, it gets our patrons in the doors and reminds them that we have books that can be read and explored in a variety of ways.

I know you all have more great programming ideas that are book related, so please share with us in the comments. Link to any posts you’ve done, share your Pinterest boards, etc.

Teen Services 101

I’m just getting started, what do I need to be successful?

Foundations: Understanding Teens Today

What Do Teens Want from Libraries Today?

The Challenges and Rewards of Serving Teens Today

What Do We Know About Teen Programming


  1. I love that you’re using a picture of my massive bookstacks from when I lived with Camille. 😀

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