Posted in Reading, Writing

How I Celebrated World Book Night 2014

A post about how I celebrated my fourth year as an official World Book Night book giver

Debbie Young holding up a copy of Nora Roberts' Black Hills
The book I’m giving away for World Book Night 2014

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.

Photo of back cover of a World Book Night book including blurb about the scheme
The distinguishing blurb on the back of World Book Night books

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

Debbie Young at BBC Radio Glos studio
Photo credit: BBC Radio Glos receptionist!

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:

 22h
What it’s all about ->MT : Gave a book to a mum who never reads adult books. Will pass it on to other mums 🙂

For More Information

 

Author:

Optimistic author, blogger, journalist, book reviewer and public speaker whose life revolves around books. Her first love is writing fiction, including the new Sophie Sayers Village Mystery novels (out 2017), short stories and essays inspired by her life in an English village. She also writes how-to books for authors and books about living with Type 1 diabetes. She is Author Advice Centre Editor and and UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) Advice Centre blog, an ambassador for the children's reading charity Readathon, and an official speaker for the diabetes research charity JDRF.

7 thoughts on “How I Celebrated World Book Night 2014

  1. Sounds terrific – I’d never heard of it! Is WBN always on 23rd April? In honour of W. Shakespeare perhaps?

    1. It is terrific, Clare – and surprisingly low profile! Yes, it’s always on 23rd April, chosen because not only is it Shakespeare’s birthday and death day (how sad to die on your birthday!) but also day of death of Miguel Cervantes’, author of “Don Quixote”. Though all these dates are a bit iffy, according to scholars – and in fact at the time of Cervantes’ death, Spain’s national calendar was running 10 days apart from ours! Still, why spoil a good party with facts?!

    1. Thanks, Georgia Rose, I feel privileged to be a part of it, and am always astonished at what a low profile the event has. It deserves to be much better known. It’s growing and evolving a little each year, as they refine the process. Do consider applying to be a book giver next year – it’s so satisfying!

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