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World Book Night – What Better Way to Spread the Love of Reading?

by on December 11, 2012

What do you think it would be like to pick a great  location and then go there and  give FREE books away to complete strangers? World Book Night (WBN)  is a means of celebrating literacy and promoting the love of books and reading. And the best part is anyone can volunteer to be a part of the fun! Our library jumped at the chance to participate in 2012. It was the first time the event,which started in 2011 in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, was held in the United States.

Each year, World Book Night is celebrated around the world on April 23, which is the UNESCO International Day of the Book and also William Shakespeare’s birthday. The idea was a result of discussions during a London Book Industry Conference in May, 2010. The originators of the idea had been brainstorming ways to spread the love of reading, when they hit upon this idea – having people who love books distribute books for free in their communities.  Here’s how it works:

Each year, 30 books are chosen by an independent panel of librarians and booksellers. The authors of the books waive their royalties and the publishers agree to pay the costs of producing the specially-printed World Book Night U.S. editions. Bookstores and libraries sign up to be community host locations for the volunteer book givers. After the book titles are announced, members of the public apply to personally hand out 20 copies of a particular title in their community. World Book Night U.S. vets the applications, and the givers are chosen based on their ability to reach light and non-readers. The selected givers choose a local participating bookstore or library from which to pick up the 20 copies of their book, and World Book Night U.S. delivers the books to these host locations. Givers pick up their books in the week before World Book Night.

On April 23rd, they give their books to those who don’t regularly read and/or people who don’t normally have access to printed books, for reasons of means or access.

Our library had three staff members participate in World Book Night on April 23, 2012 and all reported great success. Each book-giver was provided with 20 copies of a title they had selected themselves. When they submitted their applications back in 2011, they listed a first, second, and third choice from a list of twenty-five books selected for the 2012 event by a WBN committee. The application form also asks for a description of the location where the giver intends to hand out their book and why the applicant wishes to participate in World Book Night.

One staffer handed out copies of Hunger Games at multiple locations (two grocery stores, two fast food restaurants, a pet store, and a Starbucks) along a commercial parkway district in the Western part of the county.  She said she was ‘stalked’ by a lady in a minivan with her 8th grade son who was so excited when he received a copy of Hunger Games. He just kept saying “Sweeeet THIS is so Sweet.” She wore her World Book Night pin above her library name tag and also fielded questions about the library. She said she would definitely volunteer again.

Another reported that World Book Night was fun and her free copies went quickly. She went to a local restaurant and her daughter came with her to take pictures.The workers at the restaurant were as excited as the customers to receive a copy of Enders Game. She wore a library shirt and her name tag and it only took her an hour to get to the restaurant and then back home.

The third staffer’s book was Peace Like a River, so she targeted adults or older teens at the YMCA and during after school pickup. She said that a group of early 20-somethings was suspicious of her until she pointed out her library name tag.They found it hard to believe she was giving them something for nothing. She reported that when kids who were accompanying adults saw her give away a book, they asked if she had one for them too. She told them they could get just about any book from the library. She thought it would be interesting to have a Children’s World Book Night some time and felt she could have easily given away another 20 books.

A number of news articles and videos posted about World Book Night 2012 relate similar experiences from across the United States:

The third annual World Book Night will be held April 23, 2013. I have already submitted my application to be a part of this great event and encourage you to do so as well.



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