Happy #WorldBookDayUK!
Friday, March 3, 2017
Robert Gray

We've endured a lot of unsettling headlines in recent months, but yesterday I woke to this one from ITV Cymru Wales: "More than 1,000 Harry Potters parade in Merthyr for World Book Day." I smiled and, quite suddenly, the morning was off to a good start, thanks to #WorldBookDayUK.

While much of the reading planet celebrates UNESCO's World Book & Copyright Day on April 23, the U.K. and Ireland have traditionally gotten a jump on the festivities due to conflicts with school holidays. And so, March 2 has become a day of books, costumes and events.

#WorldBookDayUK's 20th anniversary also marked the release of the National Literary Trust's survey of more than 9,000 pupils, showing that 89.5% were aware of the event and almost 60% were inspired to read more because of it. The Bookseller noted that "one in four children (25.2%) said that the first book they had ever bought was with the WBD token issued last year and for pupils receiving free school meals, this increases to almost a third (32.9%)."

"We're extremely proud of how deep and wide the impact of World Book Day continues to be in the lives of children and young people all over the U.K. and Ireland, particularly in light of the recent news that one in ten people don't own a single book [poll carried out by Censuswide Research on behalf of Aviva last year]," said WBD director Kirsten Grant. "Evidence suggests that there is a lost generation of readers amongst today's adults, but we truly hope and firmly believe that, through giving children and young people greater access to books, World Book Day is ensuring that the next generation carry a love of reading with them on into adulthood."

Kids at Saint Rose of Lima School in Glasgow dressed up as their favorite literary characters to celebrate WBD. (via)

So what was happening yesterday besides the running of the Harry Potters in Wales? Plenty.

Dulwich Books: "Happy World Book Day 2017! Do something booky--bring your token in today for a free book."

The Bookshop Kibworth: "Happy #WorldBookDay! Bring us your #WBD2017 voucher & we will help you make friends with a new book to keep for ever."

Jaffé & Neale, Chipping Norton: "Today the 'Cider Bench' has been renamed The Reading Bench @booksaremybag  #worldbookday".

Booka Bookshop, Oswestry: "All set for a fun packed @WorldBookDayUK with schools & @AndyGbooks @Sibealpounder & @stephanieburgis @panmacmillan @KidsBloomsbury".

Gutter Bookshop, Dublin: "Always lovely to see the guys at @IrelandAMTV3--one day I'll stop getting so excited about books that it sounds like I'm going to explode!"

Emily's Bookshop, Chipping Campden: "Jam Tarts for the #queenofhearts #worldbookday2017 #chippingcampden thank you @thorntonrigg1".

Chorleywood Bookshop: "We are SO excited it's @worldbookdayuk #worldbookday20 we are off to spend the afternoon w/ @chrisriddell50 eeeeeeek!"

Drake the Bookshop, Stockton-on-Tees: "Thrilled to see this when I arrived at #lingfieldprimary this morning."

Linghams Booksellers, Heswall: "Happy @WorldBookDayUK A big shout to Heswall and Gayton Schools who will be joining us today @LinghamsBooks to celebrate! READ ALL THE BOOKS".

Newham Bookshop, London:‏ "wow, 200 children have redeemed their vouchers in the shop today so far. @worldbookdayuk, a great introduction to books."

The University of Glasgow posted a video featuring "a look at some of our local West End book shops."

On a more serious note, Horrid Henry creator Francesca Simon observed in the Guardian that #WBD2017 marked "the third time I've written a Horrid Henry book especially for it. I, like this year's nine other World Book Day authors, who include Jacqueline Wilson, David Walliams and David Almond, get no royalties for these £1 books, and publishers donate all their costs. So why do it?

"I once did an author event in a bookshop, and a child came up to me afterwards. 'Are we allowed to touch the books?' he asked. I realized he'd never been inside a bookshop, and this strange environment was as alien to him as stepping into a betting shop would be for me. A book token is a passport: the 15 million tokens that will be distributed among all school pupils in the U.K. and Ireland will enable them to go to any bookshop to choose a free book. For many, this will be their very first book...."

And on a less serious note, Manchester United soccer legend Wayne Rooney tweeted pics of his kids dressed up as Horrid Henry.

At the end of a long World Book Day, literary Happy Hours were not out of the question. Ian Rankin seemed ready. And Time Out London reported that at Holborn's Bloomsbury Club Bar, "guests who bring a paperback book along to the bar will see their read exchanged for a literature-inspired cocktail." The books will be sold to second-hand bookshop Skoob Books, with all proceeds going to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity. For patrons of the Lobby Bar at the London Edition, "three original tipples come accompanied with a free copy of a Penguin Classic that complements the cocktail." A £2.50 donation from each drink sold is going to Ministry of Stories.

All for a good cause. Cheers!

Baroness Gail Rebuck, World Book Day U.K. founder and chair of Penguin Random House U.K., told the Bookseller: "In 1997 the level of children's engagement with reading was at a point of national crisis. The previous year a government report had been released showing that 42% of 11-year-olds failed to achieve level 4 in reading and writing on entry to secondary school. We wanted to do something to reposition reading and our message is the same today as it was then--that reading is fun, relevant, accessible, exciting, and has the power to transform lives. I've seen first-hand how World Book Day has affected social change and long may it continue." We agree. Happy #WorldBookDay20!

--Published by Shelf Awarerness, issue #2949

Article originally appeared on Fresh Eyes Now (http://www.fresheyesnow.com/).
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