Tuesday, April 23, 2013

World Book Night

The worst punishment I ever received as a child was being grounded from reading for three days. It only happened once, when I was in middle school, after I rode my sister’s skateboard (seated) down the length of the kitchen into a piece of furniture. Which, of course, broke when I crashed into it. No, I don’t know why I did it. Yes, it was very stupid. My mother decided to punish me by telling me I couldn’t read for three days, which was a terrible punishment indeed. It was during the summer and reading was how I spent all my time. I was not terribly interested in television and we didn’t live near any of my friends. I was utterly, totally and completely miserable. By the end I was reading cereal boxes (and then feeling terribly guilty) out of desperation.

I mention it because I read somewhere that today is “National Book Day.” I still love books and reading, so I really liked that idea. I looked it up online but I couldn’t find anything about a National Book Day in the United States (although we do have a National Book Festival in September). However, I found something even better than a National Book Day.

Today, April 23rd, is World Book Night! April 23rd is UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) International Day of the Book, chosen for the anniversary of William Shakespeare’s and Miguel de Cervantes’ death on April 23rd 1616 and for Shakespeare’s birthday on April 23rd 1564, as well as the death of William Wordsworth on April 23rd 1850. I am not sure why you would celebrate books on the anniversary of the death of great literary figures or why April 23rd is apparently so dangerous. Still, I think it’s wonderful to celebrate books and writers! The first World Book Night celebration took place in 2011 in the U.K. and Ireland. This is different than World Book Day, which occurs in March in the U.K. and focuses on children. The stated goal of World Book Night is to spread the love of reading to adults in a person-to-person, celebratory way.

This is how the project works. Each year an independent panel of librarians and booksellers chooses a list of 20 books. The book choices focus on books for adults that are accessible, high quality, and fun. The authors and publishers waive their charges; all the books are special free editions. Then volunteers apply to be book givers. They have to state where and to whom they intend to give the books and then state why they want to give books away. Book givers are chosen based on their ability to reach people who are light readers or non-readers with these books. Each book giver gives away 20 copies of one particular book, one that they themselves have read and loved so that they can personally recommend it. In 2012, the first year the United States participated, over 80,000 volunteers gave away over 2.5 million books according to the World Book Night website. That’s amazing. This year the U.K., Ireland, the U.S. and Germany are participating.

I loved the statement on the World Book Night website about why what they do is important, so I am including the link here. http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/about-us/what-we-do/why-is-world-book-night-important. Check out their website, which also has the book list for this year. Their bottom line statement is that books are fun and can be life-changing. I agree! I am signing up for their newsletter and will apply to be a book giver next year. I can think of quite a few places I could go to give away books, and it sounds like fun!