Young Adult Programs

Crack the Code

Length of Program

1-2 hours, depending on the number of participants and computers.

Program Description

Secrets appeal to teenagers, and codes and ciphers are always popular. This program combines technology and intrigue. It can also be developed without computers if access is limited. Teens will learn to create a simple cipher that substitutes one symbol for every letter, using the Microsoft Webdings font. They will explore Morse code and other codes, and integrate mathematics with entertainment.


For the program, teens will need access to a computer that has the webdings font. Each participant will need a copy of the webdings fonts to create their own code. It is available on the My Fonts Web site at charmap.html. Teens use the worksheet to assign a symbol to each letter of the alphabet. Remind them that they need to create a “cheat sheet” for the code so that they and their friends can crack their codes. If you don’t have access to enough computers, incorporate some paper puzzles and math games into your program.

Books to Display

  • The Code Book: How to Make It, Break It, Hack It, Crack It by Simon Singh.
  • Cryptogram-A-Day Book by Louise Moll.
  • Messengers, Morse Code, and Modems by Janice Parker.
  • 365 Mind-Challenging Cryptograms by Trip Payne.
  • Your Introduction to Morse Code by the American Radio Relay League.

Books to Booktalk

  • The Artemis Fowl Trilogy: Book 2; The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer.
  • A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash by Sylvia Nasar.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings, Book 1) by J.R.R. Tolkien.
  • Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing by Paul B. Janeczko.
  • Unsung Heroes of World War II: The Story of the Navajo Code Talkers by Deanne Durrett.

Bulletin Board

Crack the Code

Incorporate Morse code into your bulletin board and publicity. Translate “Summer at your Library, 2005” into Morse code at the translation website below. Put this code on your bulletin board with a sign that says, “Can You Crack the Code?”


Messages in Morse code are always fun and can be used as a teaser for the upcoming program in flyers, your newsletter, or on your library Web site. Here are a few dots and dashes to get you started!

  • Reading is Fun! .-. . .- -.. .. -. --. / .. ... / ..-. ..- -.
  • The Library Rocks! - .... . / .-.. .. -... .-. .- .-. -.-- / .-. --- -.-. -.- !
  • If you figure this out you win a prize. .. ..-. / -.-- --- ..- / ..-. .. --. ..- .-. . / - .... .. ... / --- ..- - / -.-- --- ..- / .-- .. -. / .- / .--. .-. .. --.. . .-.-.- .

Prizes and Incentives

Metal puzzle mind teasers are available from Oriental Trading Company. The tiny puzzles present a big challenge, but the solutions are included! Other puzzles, including small plastic cube mind teasers, are also available.

Janway offers maze pens that can be imprinted with your library’s name, Web site, or other message. These pens feature a steel ball that must be maneuvered through the maze.


  • The Game of CODA – Conceal, Outguess, Deduce, and Amaze.
  • Mastermind.

Guest Speakers

Invite someone from a radio relay, ham radio, or amateur radio group to talk about Morse code, show the equipment, and talk about the benefits of participating in an amateur radio club. To find a local club, check out The National Association for Amateur Radio Web site at


  • A Beautiful Mind. (136 minutes)
  • Navajo Code Talkers. (50 minutes)

Web Sites

Cryptogram Maker
On this site, teens can solve randomly generated cryptograms from a pull down list of themes, or build a cryptogram for another user by entering a phrase in a box and letting the program do the work for you.

Morse Code and Phonetic Alphabets
Use this site to print out a chart of the international Morse code characters, use a Java Morse code translator to translate to and from Morse code, or get answers to frequently asked questions about Morse code. You can also hear Morse code on your computer once it has been translated on the site.

Navajo Code Talker’s Dictionary
The Navajo Code Talker’s program was established during World War II and not one cryptologist could crack it. The Code was declassified by the Department of the Navy in 1968. This site contains the Navajo Code Talker’s Dictionary. It includes the letter of the alphabet, the corresponding Navajo word written phonetically, and the literal translation of the Navajo words.


Texas Reading Club 2005 Programming Manual / Go Wild...Read!

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

Page last modified: June 14, 2011