International Notes: PEN and Penguin, Publishers and Teachers

In News by Porter Anderson

In the UK, the Publishers Association opens its ‘Textbook Challenge’ to the educational community, while in the States, Penguin Random House backs its people’s PEN memberships.
Image - iStockphoto: eyefocusaz

Image – iStockphoto: eyefocusaz

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Promoting Freedom of Expression in the USA
At a time when many in the industry feel new political pressures to stand up for freedom of expression. Penguin Random House (PRH) has responded by creating a half-price membership in PEN America for the publisher’s US writers and employees.

PEN America logo linedThrough December 31, American staff and authors can become PEN America members for 2017.

A professional membership is $125 annually, and an “advocate” membership is $50. In response to Publishing Perspectives’ question, PEN says that PRH will allow an employee or author to choose which membership level he or she would like to have and pay half for. PRH’s role, in effect, is that of making a matching contribution to each half-membership paid for by an employee or writer to create a full membership.

prh-main-logo-entered-nov-2016-linedIn a prepared statement, Suzanne Nossel, PEN America’s executive director, is quoted, saying, “Writers, editors, and others linked to publishing have come forward out of a sense that the rights and freedoms that underpin their work may be in peril. We are delighted and inspired that Penguin Random House has offered them such a powerful way to become directly involved in defense of these liberties.

“As an organization centered in the creative community, PEN America is mobilizing and expanding our constituency to become an ever-more-potent force standing in the way of those who would debase the norms and values that enable a vibrant society. We are pleased to have such a powerful ally in Penguin Random House and to bring our communities even closer together.”

Promoting Textbooks in the UK

When the UK’s Publishers Association (PA) had an independent study conducted of textbook use in primary and secondary schools, the results weren’t what the publishing community might have hoped.

500 Publishers Association LogoOne in five teachers, the survey reveals, don’t use textbooks. And 63 percent of teachers surveyed, the PA reports, could be making more use of textbooks. This, while 90 percent of the teachers said they believe that using textbooks could improve students’ attainment of their goals—and 59 percent of those surveyed said that using textbooks helps reduce their lesson-planning time.

The information has been released as the prompt to the PA’s new “Textbook Challenge,” with which the association is calling on the UK education sector “to strive to ensure that every child has access to a textbook in the main subject areas.”

More results from the survey:

  • “Nearly half (45 percent) of all teachers say funding strongly impacts their ability to use more textbooks, with more than half (56 percent) of secondary teachers saying that funding has an extensive impact on their ability to purchase textbooks.
  • “A third of primary school teachers are not using textbooks at all while in secondary schools only 10 percent of teachers said they make no use of textbooks. In total, 21 percent of teachers are making no use of textbooks at all.”
Stephen Lotinga

Stephen Lotinga

In its release of the information, the PA includes a prepared statement from its chief, Stephen Lotinga, who’s quoted saying, “Textbooks are a vital resource in helping to reduce teacher workload and to improve educational attainment. However, as this research shows, despite these benefits they are being underused in schools and many teachers are unable to buy the textbooks they need due to a lack of funding.

“At a time when teachers are increasingly finding their workloads unmanageable, it is more important than ever that they have access to resources which can help make lesson planning easier while also helping to improve standards. This is why we are launching the textbook challenge: a new challenge calling for every pupil in England and Wales to have access to a textbook in the main subjects.”

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.