Senior Manager, Freedom to Read Project

PEN America, a growing nonprofit organization working at the intersection of literature and human rights, seeks an experienced and dynamic manager for our new Freedom to Read project, leading our initiatives to protect the right of students to freely access literature in schools. The senior manager will possess the tools, experience, and vision to build coalitions and inspire change on the ground, with the aim of countering assaults on the freedom to read, learn, and think. This is a full-time position within PEN America’s broader Free Expression Programs department, reporting to the Director of Free Expression and Education. The position is expected to be based in New York or Washington, D.C.; candidates based in other locations may be considered.

The senior manager, working in collaboration with the Free Expression and Education team and other relevant PEN America staff, will develop and manage PEN America’s advocacy against book bans in schools and libraries. This new role will build on PEN America’s 100-year history of defending  the freedom to read in a democracy, as well as the organization’s strong commitments to supporting and advancing diversity and inclusion in the literary field. The role is being added during a period of heightened and unprecedented challenges to books in schools, as documented in PEN America’s recent report, Banned in the USA, which found over 1,500 bans on over 1,100 unique titles in the past nine months.

The senior manager will have the opportunity to grow and develop a program that produces compelling research and analysis for national media and the public; engages in and spearheads coalitions among partner organizations; conducts national outreach and supports capacity-building among teachers, librarians, school administrators, parents, and students; mobilizes and supports authors, publishers, and their allies nationally; and develops other targeted advocacy campaigns to advance the freedom to read.

The ideal candidate will be able to infuse a passion for the cause into an engaging plan for national outreach and community engagement which can resonate among diverse audiences. The role requires a highly organized work style, attention to detail, a diplomatic disposition, and the ability to work collaboratively.

About our team:

PEN America’s acclaimed Free Expression and Education programs advocate for academic and intellectual freedoms in educational institutions, including the freedom to write, learn, read, and think, and facilitate programs to educate a rising generation on free expression. This includes working with schools, colleges, and universities; engaging in research and advocacy; facilitating trainings and workshops; organizing public and campus-based events; and creating resources such as the PEN America Campus Free Speech Guide.


  • Design, manage, and grow PEN America’s efforts to combat book bans in schools using multiple tactics and engagement strategies
  • Conduct research and analysis on shifts in the national landscape regarding the freedom to read
  • Develop and provide original commentary to media
  • Partner with organizations in the education and free expression advocacy sectors to maintain PEN America’s reach, and reputation, and to advance the project’s mission
  • Identify strategies that would benefit from major public communications campaigns, and work alongside the communications, membership and national engagement teams at PEN America to implement them
  • Drive forward capacity building in local communities among teachers, librarians, school administrators, parents, and students
  • Identify state- and local-level opportunities for stakeholder mobilization in support of the freedom to read; and design and implement strategies and tactical plans to mobilize a broad base of public support against censorious legislation, policies, and local decisions
  • Communicate effectively to a variety of audiences about the freedom to read as a democratic right
  • Collaborate with other PEN America staff and programs to coordinate advocacy, public programming and other organizational initiatives as appropriate
  • Passionately support and advance PEN America’s mission to safeguard free expression in the United States and abroad
  • Depending on program needs and public health guidelines, domestic travel may be a significant part of this role, up to 40 percent
  • Support fundraising efforts to continue to build the project


  • A minimum of 4-6 years of relevant experience, which could include demonstrated success in campaign management, policy and legislative advocacy, grassroots organizing, outreach and coalition building, event organizing, and/or working within the education sector
  • Understanding of and interest in contemporary debates over free speech, particularly as they pertain to book bans in schools
  • A diplomatic disposition and ability to engage an ideologically varied set of stakeholders
  • Great facility with interpersonal communication and relationship building
  • Track record for independent project management, problem-solving, innovation, creativity, and effectiveness
  • Excellent writing, research, and presentation skills
  • Experience with using social media or other communications tools for professional purposes a plus

Salary and Benefits: PEN offers competitive compensation and benefits, commensurate with experience.

To Apply:

Please submit a cover letter, resume, unedited writing sample, and the contact information for three references. Submit the entire application to ([email protected]). Please use “Senior Manager, Freedom to Read Project” with your name as the subject of your email (e.g., Senior Manager, Freedom to Read Project – Jane Doe). Only complete applications will be reviewed, and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices, and in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

No phone calls, please.

About PEN America:

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.