Penguin Random House UK distributing free books to communities facing hardship during coronavirus crisis

Photo of an elderly reader

Penguin Random House UK is distributing free books to some of the communities most affected by the coronavirus crisis, including families on low incomes and older people facing isolation.

By getting thousands of books into the hands of people who face particular hardship or distress during the coming weeks, our aim is to provide mental stimulation, company and comfort at a time when people will need the power of books more than ever.  

We are distributing books through a partnership with the community platform Neighbourly, which supports a national network of foodbanks and community causes that deliver food parcels to people’s homes, as well as grassroots groups that support older people facing social isolation.

With communities across the country under severe strain, as social isolation, school closures and a reduction in charitable donations all cause increased difficulties for those in greatest need, we have teamed up with Neighbourly to offer relief and escapism in challenging times. New figures show that nearly a million people applied for universal credit in the last fortnight, a surge in welfare support that highlights the depth of the income crisis.

The range of charities and community groups who will receive the books and offer them as part of their essential services are included on our Neighbourly campaign page – here are just three examples of the causes who have received our books this week:

  • UK Harvest: a food rescue operation which collects excess food from restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, events and others – and delivers them direct and free of charge to charities nationwide, including food banks
  • Rhythms of Life: a homeless charity operating in Islington, Camden and Westminster
  • The Bus Shelter Ipswich: a converted bus and community group offering shelter and food to homeless people in Ipswich

Liz Woodsell, Chief Operating Officer of UK Harvest, said:

"This partnership with Penguin Random House is really exciting for us, especially at this particularly challenging time. We are in the business of supporting people with food which is essential for their wellbeing, but we believe that by also giving people books, we can really offer some emotional support too. For people in isolation and those relying on foodbanks, books can really give some comfort."

The partnership with Neighbourly is part of our ongoing commitment to ensure that everyone has access to books, focusing particularly on hard to reach groups. This includes including enabling hospital patients across the UK to listen to free audio books in conjunction with the Hospital Broadcasting Association – a charity which supports and represents independent volunteer-run radio stations in the majority of NHS hospitals. 

We also have free resources and content for teachers, parents and librarians across the UK who are navigating the impact of school and library closures, including a daily free storytime from 6th April with author readings and draw-a-longs on Puffin’s YouTube, Instagram and Facebook channels.

Tom Weldon, CEO of Penguin Random House UK, said:

“This crisis, and its often-devastating consequences, has touched and affected every one of us. Ensuring that struggling families and people at risk of isolation have the essential food and care they need is critical, but we believe that books have a valuable role to play in providing emotional nourishment, comfort and escapism so we are pleased to be partnering with Neighbourly to get our books into the hands of those who most need them.”

The books distributed will cover a wide range of genres, including fiction, non-fiction and children’s books.

Neighbourly’s previous work to distribute our to charitable causes has shown that 81 percent of those who received a book felt encouraged to read as a result.

Find out more about how we are working with Neighbourly here.

Tom Weldon


Connecting a community of readers in a time of crisis

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more