Penguin Random House launches high schoolers’ award to combat book bans

The publisher’s $10,000 Freedom of Expression prize invites teens to write about a banned book that changed their life, against a backdrop of rising censorship

Publisher Penguin Random House has launched a new writing award in the US celebrating freedom of expression in response to a rise in book bans across the country.

The Freedom of Expression award invites applicants to write about one banned book that changed their life and why. The $10,000 (£8,168) prize will be awarded to a high-school student planning to attend university in 2024.

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‘If we don’t teach kids about consent, the internet will’: Natasha Devon on the importance of sex education

The mental health campaigner’s new book tackles sex and relationships through the eyes of a 16-year-old. In the face of a backlash against inclusive sex ed in schools she explains why we have to keep the conversation open

Sex education has always been a hot topic. But at a time when children are seeing pornography by the age of 13 on average, it feels especially urgent. With her young adult novel Babushka, the sequel to the coming-of-age Toxic, mental health campaigner Natasha Devon MBE tackles themes like victim blaming, safe sex and healthy relationships through the eyes of Cerys, age 16, who leaves Wales for the bright lights of London declaring: “I’ve never felt like I don’t know who I am. Just that I was in the wrong place.”

Devon herself felt similarly when she was growing up in Ugley, a village in Essex. Reading magazines like Cosmopolitan made her think: “In a big city I’ll find my tribe.”

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