This year, World Book Day celebrated a significant milestone - 20 years of what is now the world’s biggest reading celebration, and an impressive coalition of the book industry working proactively together to address falling literacy levels and create the readers of the future.
To quote Radio 2’s Sara Cox, World Book Day has become “a phenomenon”. Research conducted via the National Literacy Trust’s Annual Literacy Survey for our anniversary gave us tangible insight into the impact of the campaign on children and young peoples’ lives: 89.5% of children were aware of the campaign and six in 10 were inspired to read more. Worryingly, though, for one in four children (one in three for those receiving free school meals), the book they bought with their 2016 £1 book token was the first they have ever owned. So we have made inroads, but there is still work to be done, as our job is to present books in a way that will make children and young people want to read them and show that reading is, indeed, a good and fun thing to do.
Over the next 20 years, it’s imperative we represent our audience within our books and activity. Authors and illustrators are instrumental to the campaign and getting the right mix for the £1 books is key, as they drive children into bookshops to redeem their book tokens (token redemptions increased by 24% this year to 1.25 million). We work closely with retailers and publishers on carefully balancing the list every year, so that there is something for everyone to get excited about. In partnership with publishers, we have taken direct action to address the need for a representative list, with the combination of household names and family favourites, and this will continue to be an area of focus in the coming months and years. Through the author, illustrations, an inclusive message or a wide assortment of characters, our readers can see the world they live in. Our mixed media look and feel, too, represents a wide range of children, and our YA campaign will have inclusivity at its core - threads running through the campaign’s every element.
Our overarching Share a Story theme for 2018 puts reading for pleasure at the heart of the celebration, mobilising the nation to recognise the impact that reading together for only 10 minutes a day can have on a child’s outcome. If every child left school with the reading skills they need, our economy could be £30 billion bigger by 2025*. So, for the first time, we’re also engaging corporate partners to promote our reading message within their businesses. There will be Share a Story p.o.s. packs for bookshops, as well as a poll to find the nation’s favourite stories. For schools, the World Book Day Award (WoBoD) returns; and the week-long Biggest Book Show on Earth tour will be taking authors and illustrators directly to children both online in two pre-recorded shows and in major venues nationwide, including our first ticketed family event. We’re taking books to children who need them most, distributing free £1 books in 30 prisons nationwide for children visiting parents. Bookclubbing will be an online and real-life movement encouraging teenagers to spread the word (#shareastory) and make a noise about books.
Kirsten Grant is World Book Day director.
*Source: Read On. Get On.