A post about how I celebrated my fourth year as an official World Book Night book giver
Yesterday I was delighted to take part in World Book Night 2014 – the fourth year of this laudable event aimed at encouraging adults to read for pleasure.
In some ways it’s like the better-known, longer-established World Book Day, which is so effective at persuading children around the world to love books and reading. After spending three years working for the British children’s reading charity Read for Good, I know how leisure reading can change children’s lives for the better.
Despite the excellent work done by both Read for Good and World Book Day, many children still leave school without a love of books and reading, likely to go through the rest of their lives without the ability to escape into a story or expand their experience through the pages of a book.
What Is World Book Night?
World Book Night picks up where these children’s charities leave off. In the UK, World Book Night spreads the joy of reading to adults by enlisting book-loving volunteers to give away free books to those who do not normally read for pleasure. There are lots of reasons why adults don’t read books: no time, no interest, no encouragement, reading difficulties, and no money to spend on books. The organisers produce special editions of a set range of books each year, carefully chosen to include something to appeal to all ages and tastes.
The unexpected gift of a free book, pressed into their hand by an avid reader, can make a real difference to a reluctant adult reader. It often kickstarts a new reading habit, enabling them to reap the joys of reading for the rest of their lives.
I recognise my own good fortune in having been raised in a house full of books and eager readers, with easy access to an excellent public library and caring schools. When I first discovered World Book Night four years ago, while working for Readathon (part of Read for Good), I was pleased to have this ready-made opportunity to offer further chances to those who had not been so lucky.
My Chosen World Book Night Books
Each year, I’ve applied and been pleased to be approved as a designated book giver, choosing a different one each year to distribute:
- 2011 The chef Nigel Slater’s excellent autobiography Toast
- 2012 The wonderful coming-of-age story by Dodie Smith, I Capture The Castle – one of my all-time favourite books
- 2013 Alexander McCall Smith’s first Mma Ramotswe story, The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency
- 2014 Nora Roberts’ romantic thriller, Black Hills
I’ve given out my allocation of books in various places – in the village school playground, at a breakfast event in the village hall, at the shopping precinct – and always been met with an enthusiastic, if sometimes puzzled, response. Once people realise there’s no catch, they’re delighted to receive a free book – and for the giver, it’s rewarding to feel like Father Christmas for a day.
Some of my author friends staged special events on the night at bookshops and libraries. We held one two years ago in our village hall, but those who attended were already eager book-lovers, which, although very welcome, were not really our intended recipients of the book. Therefore this year I took a different stance: when invited to pick a Wednesday on which to appear on our local BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s discussion panel, I volunteered for April 23rd – World Book Night.
Taking to the Airwaves
The “Mid-week Mix” slot on Chris Baxter’s excellent morning show invites a panel of guests in to talk informally about interesting items in the news. Along with Hugh Worsnip, former chief reporter of the Gloucester Citizen, and Jenny May, a local journalist, we covered a wide range of set topics, from the cost of new cancer drugs to the forthcoming European elections.
The meaning of St George’s Day – also 23rd April – was also on the agenda. “What does St George’s Day mean to you?” was the question to which I was able to answer with complete honesty “World Book Night”, and to explain a little about it. I also made sure to give copies of my World Book Night 2014 book to the presenter, the panellists and the producer.
“Ooh, I was wondering how to get hold of one of those!” said a delighted Chris Baxter.
Now, it may seem at odds with the principle of the event to give books to those who are already eager readers, but I told them they had to promise to pass it on to someone who didn’t usually read, once they had enjoyed it themselves. Thus this was the perfect opportunity to enlist five new ambassadors who will now go out and tell their friends about World Book Night, and I hope they’ll be encouraged to volunteer as book givers themselves next year.
As I left the studio after our broadcast was over, I stopped to offer a book to the receptionist.
“Ooh, lovely, a grown-up book!” she said. “I never get the chance to read adult books – with a small child at home, I’m forever reading The Gruffalo. And I know a lot of other mums in the same boat. I’ll pass it on to them when I’ve finished, they’ll be really pleased.”
When I tweeted a 140-character version of this experience later, there was a gratifying reply from the organisers which certainly made my World Book Night:
For More Information
- If you’re in the UK, you may hear the broadcast via BBC iPlayer for the next six days here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01wv4gz. Scroll forward to 10.39am; the panel lasts for an hour.
- If you’re wondering what World Book Day is all about, read this post about how I celebrated World Book Day 2014.
- For more information about World Book Night, their website is www.worldbooknight.org.
- To find out more about Readathon, visit their website: www.readathon.org.