In depth: World Book Day 2012

World Book Day, the trade-backed initiative to celebrate books and reading, will mark its 15th anniversary this year with a new look and a renewed sense of mission after a complete overhaul of the promotion's branding and a fresh take on how it is delivered.

Events taking place in schools and homes, bookshops and libraries on 1st March 2012 will have a vigour and excitement not seen perhaps since the first WBD in 1998. Expect to see a higher profile, and better networking between schools, libraries and bookshops, more attempts to engage consumers and schools and even political interest, says WBD director Kirsten Grant.

WBD is to remain exclusively focused on children and young people, following last year's launch of World Book Night for adults. WBD chair Joanna Prior says: "For years we struggled to make WBD as strong for adults as for children and there have been various attempts at that but nothing grabbed the imagination as successfully as World Book Night on 23rd April." This has left early March with a complete focus on younger readers, which is partly responsible for its new energy says Prior, and enabled the committee to bring a new level of expertise to it.

That new expertise includes the appointment of Grant as WBD director. She was previously campaigns director at Penguin Children's Books where she was responsible for initiatives such as Roald Dahl Day. Grant says: "The market-place has changed a lot since WBD was launched and there hasn't been a real root and branch overhaul of the initiative for a long time. My aim is to reconnect WBD with today's consumers. That means re­imagining the whole of WBD; what it looks like, what it says to people and how we can get ­children and adults committed to it."

Live . . . and digital
At the heart of WBD's activities this year is a live online event at the South Bank, which will take WBD firmly into the digital arena. "The Biggest Book Show on Earth" will showcase what WBD is all about, says Grant. The programme will begin at 9.30 a.m. on World Book Day with events for toddlers and children. It will showcase some 15 children's authors and illustrators including children's laureate Julia Donaldson, Eoin Colfer, Jacqueline Wilson, Cressida Cowell and Andy Stanton. "The aim is to beam it in to every class and library in the country that has the technology," she adds.

WBD will still remain true to its original idea; that of offering children a choice of a free book that they can buy with a £1 book token. However, there is also recognition of the need for more buy-in; while an impressive 600,000 vouchers are exchanged for a free WBD book each year, some 14.3 million WBD £1 vouchers are actually distributed, making the take-up just 4%.

Grant believes that the industry may be assuming too much of consumers and teachers in understanding the logistics of the tokens. "Publishers know that every child gets a £1 token and we then expect parents to know that they can go into a bookshop and exchange it for a £1 book, or put it towards the cost of another book," she says. "Yet so many vouchers are left languishing at the bottom of a school bag. That suggests that message needs to be clearer." This year's £1 WBD tokens will spell out, step-by-step on the token, how children can redeem it.

WBD should also see a renewed vigour on the high street; the committee has kept in touch with the chains, Waterstone's, W H Smith, and independent bookshops, to ensure they are kept up to date with the changes.

And there is also much for independents to get excited about this year, says Polly Jaffé of Jaffé & Neale in Chipping Norton, who is on the WBD committee. Jaffé says: "There is definitely a new energy and dynamism around WBD and I feel very excited about the new things it is trying. My concern is to get more people into libraries and bookshops on WBD and to get the industry really behind it." She believes the new online initiatives will help to drive footfall on the day. "We will try to get involved with the live stream this year and get people to come in and watch it from here."

There will be much more emphasis on libraries taking part in WBD after a slow decline in their participation over recent years. World Book Day resources will be distributed to libraries by Bertrams and Holt & Jackson, and 12 major regional library events will take place. In turn, WBD will promote library membership in its schools packs. Grant says: "We will be working hard to link up schools with their local bookshop and library."

Tweens and teens
WBD is also keen to attract more teenagers. For the first time, dedicated secondary school packs will be sent out (rather than secondary schools sharing the primary pack) and there will also be a new digital provision for teenage readers. WBD has been working with Apple to ­create a WBD app that will include six specially written WBD stories by authors Charlie Higson, Anthony Horowitz, Sophie McKenzie,­ Neil Gaiman, Malorie Blackman and Rachel Vincent. Apple is also supporting a live teen event that will be streamed as it happens on iTunes.

There are also some longer-term aims emerging from WBD 2012. The website will increasingly be seen as a year-round resource, including an events calendar that can track regional book-based events throughout the year, not just during WBD, and there will be areas for people to share WBD ideas and lesson plans. The WBD app will also be updated during the year.

There is a drive to make WBD better recognised outside the industry and this has resulted in a much more active PR campaign and, hopefully, more political awareness of its work. Prior says: "World Book Day is an excellent promotion that achieves a lot. It is funded by the industry and delivers to important government educational and cultural agendas—we should get credit for that." Through the PA, WBD has been brought to the attention of Ed Vaizey, the minister for culture, communications and creative industries, whom Prior met, and there will be a WBD display in the House of Commons in the run-up to WBD. It is hoped that high-profile MPs might also get more involved on WBD itself.

Prior says: "I feel very excited about WBD as an opportunity to talk en masse to children through a direct channel, their schools, and to create for them a moment in the year that's about them and their engagement with books and authors, writing and creativity. I want children to look forward to it in their school calendar and for that to be the day when they might go into a bookshop, or a library, for the first time."

WBD 2012 events include:  

The Biggest Book Show on Earth:
A huge event at the South Bank involving nearly 1,000 children and 15 authors and illustrators will be broadcast to schools, nurseries, bookshops and libraries around the country.

WBD App:
Will launch in February 2012 and a teen event will take place at the Apple Store in Covent Garden, London, and streamed on iTunes.

Storytelling Superstars:
A nationwide search to find the country's best storyteller. Julia Donaldson will be the ambassador and head judge for the competition and discussions are ongoing with a national media partner.

WBD Ambassadors:
Peter Andre has already been confirmed by WBD and it is seeking other ambassadors including sports figures and journalists to pre-promote WBD and drive up awareness of the campaign.

Big Fiction Finds:
WBD is working with Netmums to pre-promote WBD into Netmums' community, using £1 WBD authors on the website and Q&As with authors including Jacqueline Wilson.

Blue Peter:
Discussions are under way to dedicate a "Blue Peter" programme to WBD with features around the day, alongside the announcement of the Blue Peter Book Award winner on WBD.

500 Words:
Radio 2's Chris Evans will launch a 500-Word Short Story Competition in January, which will be promoted to schools and libraries.