Our Speakers for Students and Schools


Our unrivaled roster of speakers for students and schools is shaping national conversations—on and off the page.

With messages that resonate across age groups and with parents and educators, these dynamic speakers inspire new ideas and encourage dialogue within K-12 school communities, on topics including creativity, persistence, the power of education, and diversity.

Speakers for Students and Schools

Browse speakers on:
The Importance of History
Diversity and Inclusion
The Immigrant Experience
Inspiring Messages and Stories

Contact us to learn more about Community and School Reads programs or visit the Penguin Random House Common Reads website.

The Importance of History

Bryan Stevenson

Attorney, human rights activist, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and author of Just Mercy

Bryan Stevenson is one of the country’s most visionary legal thinkers and social justice advocates. A MacArthur fellow and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson is a founding leader of the movement against mass incarceration in the U.S. and author of the bestselling memoir, Just Mercy. An inspiring and unflinchingly honest speaker, Bryan Stevenson talks to schools about defending some of America’s most rejected and marginalized people.

Markus Zusak

#1 New York Times– bestselling author of The Book Thief

International bestselling author Markus Zusak‘s haunting novel The Book Thief has been a mainstay on The New York Times bestseller list since it was first published in 2006. His lectures give insights into the background, techniques, and processes behind writing a novel. Zusak travels from Australia, but will be available in the US in the fall.

Carlotta Walls LaNier

Youngest of the Little Rock Nine, civil rights advocate, National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee

Civil rights icon and National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee Carlotta Walls LaNier motivates audiences with her personal story of perseverance and strength. At the age of fourteen, she was the youngest Little Rock Nine member to integrate Central High School. A sought-after lecturer, she draws on that experience in her powerful talks that reflect on the history and current state of civil rights, race, and diversity.

Diversity and Inclusion

Jennifer Finney Boylan

Author of the bestselling memoir She’s Not There and celebrated LGBTQ activist

Jennifer Finney Boylan is the author of the critically acclaimed breakthrough bestseller She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, one of the first bestselling works by a transgender American. An activist for LGBT people, and transgender men and women in particular, Boylan is an accomplished speaker who has spoken at colleges, high schools, and other educational venues across the country. Her lecture encourages dialogue about gender, society, and diversity, and includes “Transgender 101,” a brief overview of the wide range of gender expression.

Jacqueline Woodson

National Book Award and four-time Newbery Honor Winner, and bestselling author of Brown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline Woodson is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her New York Times-bestselling memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming. The author of more than two dozen books for young readers, she gives stirring lectures that delve into the inspiration behind her books and explore important issues of race, gender, and bullying.

Private: Reginald Dwayne Betts

Author of A Question of Freedom, PEN New England Award winner, and national spokesperson for the Campaign for Youth Justice

Reginald Dwayne Betts transformed himself from a sixteen-year old kid sentenced to nine-years in prison to a critically acclaimed writer and graduate of the Yale Law School. His inspirational lectures speak to the power of language and education, and examine the important intersection of art and social justice.

The Immigrant Experience

Cristina Henríquez

Critically acclaimed author of The Book of Unknown Americans

Cristina Henríquez is the author of the widely acclaimed novel The Book of Unknown Americans, which has been called “a flawlessly written book about immigration.” Henríquez brings to life the varied human stories behind the ongoing debate about immigration through the eyes of characters from all over Latin America. She speaks about creativity and the writing process as well as her experience growing up half-American, half-Panamanian.

Dan-el Padilla Peralta

Princeton University professor and author of Undocumented

Dan-el Padilla Peralta was the 2006 Latin salutatorian of Princeton University and has been called “one of the best classicists to emerge in his generation.” His memoir, Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League, is a classic story of the triumph of the human spirit. In his keynote talks and presentations for schools, Peralta shares his remarkable journey and highlights the many challenges facing immigrants living in America.

Inspiring Messages and Stories

Travis Mills

Retired United States Army Staff Sergeant and Recalibrated Warrior

Retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills’ keynote speech teaches and inspires audiences at schools nationwide to “Never give up. Never quit.” no matter the obstacles or circumstances. Mills’ larger-than-life personality, sense of humor and incredible spirit for life engages audiences from the moment he takes center stage. A Recalibrated Warrior, motivational speaker, and international advocate for veterans and amputees, he started the Travis Mills Foundation, which benefits and assists wounded and injured veterans.

R. J. Palacio

#1 New York Times bestselling author of Wonder

R.J. Palacio took the children’s literature world by storm with the publication of her debut novel, Wonder, a #1 New York Times bestseller that has sold over 1 million copies in North America. While Wonder is about a boy with a craniofacial difference, it has also been described as a “meditation on kindness.” In her talks, Palacio explores the impact of kindness on the world. What is the difference between simply being nice, and choosing to be kind? Can one act of kindness truly save the world? And how can we inspire our children to acts of kindness?

Donovan Livingston

Educator, poet, and author of Lift Off

Donovan Livingston is an award-winning educator, spoken word poet, and public speaker. In 2016, his Harvard Graduate School of Education convocation address “Lift Off” reached over thirteen million views and prompted Hillary Clinton to praise, “It’s young graduates like [Livingston] who make it clear that America’s best days are still ahead.” His convocation address was published as a book by Spiegel & Grau in 2017. His passionate lectures encourage students, educators, and communities to realize their potential to change the shape of education and realize the power of language.

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