PRH Rolls Out Banned Books Resources: ‘Let Kids Read’

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From Publishing Perspectives:

On Monday (August 14), Andrew Paul at Popular Science wrote, “Iowa educators are turning to ChatGPT to help decide which titles should be removed from their school library shelves in order to legally comply with recent Republican-backed state legislation.”

Today (August 15), Penguin Random House has released its new “banned books resource site”—titled Let Kids Read.

The two events’ timing is coincidental. What’s intentional is a rising willingness among major book-business players to speak forthrightly to such politically inflamed issues.

PRH’s worldwide CEO, Nihar Malaviya, says on today’s release of its new campaign, “We believe in the power of books and their ability to make us better—as individuals and as a society.

“Books give us perspective; their stories allow us to feel seen and provide us with the opportunity to learn from each other’s lived experiences.

“The acceleration of book bannings, challenges, and related legislation sweeping across the country is a direct threat to democracy and our constitutional rights. Diverse stories deserve to be told, and readers deserve the autonomy to choose what books they read.”

To that end, the special site set is up as a consumer-facing presentation, ending in a selection of banned books grouped by category and intended to be rotated at regular intervals.

There’s a series of “What We’re Doing” sections first, and Publishing Perspectives readers will be familiar with many of the listed legal challenges in which PRH has been a party, often under the aegis of the Association of American Publishers. This is followed by a listing of relevant organizations the company works with; a section on the company’s support for its authors; and another section on teacher and librarian support.

Technically, that portion of the “banned book resource site” is a corporate-responsibility piece, albeit clearly one that displays some of the good works and associations made and maintained by the company in the service of resisting a censorious era’s darkest dynamics.

Where the piece shows its depth is in the next section, which offers Malaviya’s introductory commentary on the problem. Look for the section called “Resources for Everyone.”

Here you’ll find him linking to reputable (American Library Association) survey results indicating that 70 percent of American parents asked say that they’re opposed to book banning.

Even more enlightening is his use of Hannah Natanson’s May 23 report for the Washington Post in which investigative journalism found that LGBTQ content is the most frequent trigger in book-banning incidents and that the core challenges to the freedom to read in school-setting book challenges were filed, in the Post‘s analysis, by just 11 people in the 2021-2022 school year cycle. Each of these people created 10 or more challenges in their school districts—one lodging 92 challenges in a year.

Natanson’s article calls these the “serial filers” who launch those blizzards of complaints that send school boards reeling and books vanishing from shelves, with librarians and teachers caught in the crossfire.

In Malaviya’s article, he pledges, “We will always stand by those fighting for intellectual freedom.”

“Resources for Authors and Creators” will give you the Penguin Random House author Jacob Tobia, who makes an appeal to authors to avoid self-censorship, writing, “As authors, we must resist not only their efforts to ban our books, but also their efforts to make us afraid.

“Now is not the time to cower. Now is not the time to stop writing. It is the time to double down on our creative joy, on the power that comes with expressing the ideas and stories shimmering in our hearts.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG says that Manhattan sensibilities differ substantially from those held by about 90% of the remainder of the US population. The idea of a group of business executives deciding what children can read is going to strike more than a few parents outside of the canyons of New York as both presumptious in the extreme.

Just because some corporate drone is familiar with what books sell doesn’t make them an expert on what children should be reading. It does, however, represent virtue signaling to other members of the NYC hive mind.

1 thought on “PRH Rolls Out Banned Books Resources: ‘Let Kids Read’”

  1. Thing is, most of the efforts to keep these books off of library shelves are really counterproductive. They’re the sort of books that librarians and teachers love to buy because they Teach Kids Very Important Lessons, and that kids tend to shy away from because they can tell when books are written to teach them Very Important Lessons rather than to tell them a good story. The only hope the publishers have of getting into kids’ hands is this kind of marketing effort to give them the allure of the forbidden.

    For example, did any kid ever read “Antiracist Baby” of their own accord? Given that there are millions of children in America, by the law of large numbers I’m sure at least one did, but I will guarantee you that the number was not high even in absolute terms.

    (Also, who talks like this? “It is the time to double down on our creative joy, on the power that comes with expressing the ideas and stories shimmering in our hearts.” If that’s how this guy usually writes, parents don’t need to worry about their kids reading his books–they’ll be turned off by the obnoxious glurginess in the first five pages.)

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