Operation: Teen Code Raiders

by Victor Shill

Length of Program

50 – 90 minutes

Program Description

Not all codes are intended to be secret. In this program, teens learn about communication through Braille, Morse Code, or sign language.


Invite qualified individuals from the community to demonstrate Braille, Morse Code, and sign language. As an alternative, librarians may use the suggested web sites and books to present an introductory program.


Display examples of Braille, morse code, and sign language. Create a display based on the movie, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, an adventure story in which the heroine must battle a secret society for an ancient artifact possessing great power. Ask teens to help create the display, using pictures, for example, depicting tombs, pyramids, hieroglyphics, runes, astrological symbols, medieval castles, and gargoyles.

Books to Display

  • Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing by Martin Gardner.
  • How to Keep a Secret: Writing and Talking in Code by Elizabeth James and Carol Barkin.
  • The Joy of Signing: The Illustrated Guide for Mastering Sign Language and the Manual Alphabet by Lottie L. Riekehof.
  • Learn to Sign the Fun Way: Let Your Fingers Do the Talking with Games, Puzzles, and Activities in American Sign Language by Penny Warner.

Books to Booktalk

  • Code Breakers: From Hieroglyphs to Hackers by Simon Adams.
  • Operating Codes by Nick Manns.
  • Radio Rescue by Lynne Barasch.

Group Activities

Let teens learn to sign their first name using the sign language alphabet or practice sending a message by morse code.

Form the teens into pairs. Give each team a piece of paper containing a short, simple phrase. Let them learn to sign it. Each pair will stand in front of the others and sign their phrase. Give a prize to the first teen to “read” it correctly.

Create a secret code message such as “Reading Is Fun” or “Your mission is to read.” Display the message on the bulletin board and have a contest to see who can be the first to solve it.

Acronym Challenge. Ask teens to find the meaning of the following acronyms: CIA, OSS, NSA, MI6, KGB, CI, FBI, IC, DOS, UNCLE. Direct them to the Acronym Database at www.ucc.ie/acronyms/ and to books in your library to locate the answers.

Let teens squeeze the juice of a lemon onto a plate and dip a toothpick or small brush into the juice to write an invisible message on paper. After the juice dries, they hold the paper against a hot light bulb and read the message.

Web-Based Activities

Marshall Space Flight Center Word Find Puzzle Builder
Create a puzzle using such words as: anagram, cipher, code, palindrome, cryptogram, espionage, spy, scams, hoax, secret, message, agent, camera, gadget, mission, computer, false, spyplane, missile, jamesbond. Print and distribute for teens to solve. Let teens use the web site to create their own word puzzles to swap and solve.

CIA’s Homepage for Kids
Teens can follow the links to codes and word puzzle activities.

BlackDog’s Anagram Creator
Teens use this fun web site to create and solve anagrams.

Web Sites

The Acronym Database

American Foundation for the Blind Braille Bug Site

The Morse Code Pages

Audio Recordings

  • Blue Avenger Cracks the Code by Norma Howe.
  • Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz.
  • Your Introduction to Morse Code; Morse Code Practice by American Radio Relay League.


  • Antitrust. (108 minutes)
  • Breaking the Code. (90 minutes)
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. (118 minutes)
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. (102 minutes)


Texas Reading Club 2003 Programming Manual / Mission Possible Spy Book!

Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Page last modified: June 14, 2011