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Penguin Random House takes on US book bans with Banned Wagon Tour

Penguin Random House will hit the road next month, traveling through Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas. The publishers are on a mission: to fight US book bans that limit the fiction and non-fiction titles that kids have access to. Their 'Banned Wagon Tour' will be handing out free copies of banned books at bookstores in communities affected by censorship. 

PRH selected 12 titles, including books for young readers that deal with themes of racism and queerness, and classic novels like The Kite Runner, The Handmaid's Tale and The Bluest Eye. The Banned Wagon is the result of a partnership with the Freedom to Read Foundation, Pen America and Little Free Library. Organizers will also add banned books to Little Free Libraries along the tour route to support that organization and increase the number of books it circulates.

As Nihar Malaviya, the publishing conglomerate's CEO, says: "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. Diverse stories deserve to be told, and readers deserve the autonomy to choose what books they read."

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According to PEN America, from July to December 2022, 1,477 books were challenged or banned in the US — a disturbing sign of often politically motivated tendencies toward state paternalism and parental control. By taking a proactive stand against efforts to repress what young people can read and learn, Penguin Random House's Banned Wagon initiative appeals to a consumer base that demands brands have a purpose and act on it.

PRH isn't just handing out free books and reaching out to communities; it works closely and continuously with other organizations to support teachers, librarians, authors and readers. The key takeaway for other brands? Commit to issues that closely align with your core values, and see it through.