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World Book Night—Spreading the Love of Reading, One Book At a Time

by on April 21, 2014

Cover image by https://www.flickr.com/photos/francesc_2000/

In the Catalan region of Spain, people have long recognized the power of books. On April 23rd, in commemoration of Cervantes’ death, people are presented a single rose and a book. More recently, UNESCO named April 23rd, which is also Shakespeare’s birthday, as the International Day of the Book. From a regional tradition in Spain to schoolchildren receiving book tokens in Great Britain and Ireland on World Book Day, the idea for World Book Night was born at London’s Book Industry Conference. This event has spread the love of reading to tens of thousands of readers and non-readers alike who are “gifted” a book through the generosity of a national network of book givers, bookstores, libraries, authors, publishers and donors. In 2011, World Book Night UK launched this “quixotic” venture to expand UNESCO’s program to adult readers. One year later, the program expanded to the United States and has been growing ever since.

The Givers
25,000 passionate book givers spread the love of reading by volunteering to personally go out into their communities and hand out 20 books to potential new readers on April 23rd. That’s how WBN shares half a million books in just one day. Selected books are specially produced, not-for-resale paperbacks. Book givers receive twenty copies of one book, a title they choose from a list of 39 selections. (See 2014 Selections) In their applications, givers pick their first three best choices, and WBN does its best to fulfill those requests. The week prior to April 23rd, givers go to designated pick-up locations but have to wait until the 23rd to hand out their books.

Libraries Lend A Hand
Public libraries are the mainstay for WBN’s national advocacy and distribution network. Libraries make two commitments as participants, to be a pick-up location for book giver volunteers to retrieve their shipment of books, and to be active advocates in local communities for World Book Night by doing what comes naturally, spreading the love of reading, “person to person.” The program makes it easy for libraries to participate. They offer some wonderful marketing tools including logos, stickers, a town proclamation, thank you letters, and other easy and useful ideas—like donating books that haven’t been picked up to a local prison, hospital, or juvenile detention center.

World Book Night US 2014 Events
Small bookstores and public libraries are celebrating World Book Night 2014 in many different ways. Comedian Amy Poehler is this year’s honorary chairperson, adding interest and entertainment. To celebrate, The New York Public Library will host Victoria Bond, Malcolm Gladwell, Garrison Keillor, Walter Dean Myers, Esmeralda Santiago, T.R. Simon, and Tobias Wolff at 6:30 pm on April 22nd while Althea Kontis will appear at the Gum Springs Library in Stone Ridge, Virginia at 7:00 PM. Readers in Chicago can hear Scott Turow at the Chicago Public Library’s main branch while none other than Walter the Giant Storyteller will be at the Alameda Free Library in Alameda, California. World Book Night US 2014 celebrates reading everywhere.

The Gift of A  Book
World Book Night has a two-fold mission: “spreading the love of reading, person to person”. A book can be given; the love of reading must be emulated. That is the promise of World Book Night. From its inception, Anne Cucci, school librarian at W.T. Clarke High School in Westbury, New York, took part. The first year, she gifted the boys at the School Program for Incarcerated Youth at the Nassau County Correctional Center in East Meadow, NY. That April, a population that rarely received gifts was given a carton full of The Glass Castle,.

As the transitional counselor in the school program there, I wrote Anne:

“Our rolling library is quite popular here and our students’ appetite for reading is enormous. Being able to lend them a book is one thing, being able to give them a book was a ‘feast’.

The inscription over the library at Thebes: Medicine for the soul. We all understand a book as a place of escape. But also healing for the soul. What better appeal than for those in jail. And what better place for your service to World Book Night. Thank you.”

Since then, Anne has become a “reading ambassador”. The boys and I look forward to the carton she will deliver this year.

Through her efforts as a book giver and the cooperation of the public library system where she picks up the books, she and thousands of other volunteers are spreading the love of reading one book at a time.

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