The Reading Agency is preparing to celebrate the 10th anniversary of World Book Night in 2021 with a newly commissioned "book to make the nation smile", edited by Fanny Blake and featuring contributions from Jenny Eclair, Richard Madeley and Dorothy Koomson, among others.
Stories to Make You Smile is being published by Simon & Schuster and will be given away for free as part of the national World Book Night giveaway thanks to a new partnership with Specsavers. Coinciding with Specsavers' new multichannel campaign, Something to Smile About, the book will also be made available to Specsavers customers, with details to be announced in 2021.
Among the other participating authors confirmed for the collection are Helen Lederer, Mark Watson, Eva Verde, Vaseem Khan and Rachel Hore.
"Books To Make You Smile" is the theme of next year's World Book Night, taking place on 23rd April 2021, with the aim "to support everyone in finding more time to read and celebrate the shared pleasure of reading". Following on the heels of a successful 2020, in which millions of people connected and celebrated the #ReadingHour in lockdown, WBN 2021 is responding in particular to the mental health challenges caused by the pandemic, the Reading Agency said.
Research shows that during the pandemic the proportion of adults experiencing poor mental health increased by 80% among 18 to 29-year-olds and 68% among those aged 65-79 (Resolution Foundation); twice as many adults in Britain reported symptoms of depression during the pandemic compared with the same time last year (ONS). According to The Reading Agency, access to books could help, with reading proven to improve mental health, self-esteem, empathy and concentration and more, its research showing adults who read for 30 minutes a week are 20% more likely to report greater life satisfaction.
World Book Night 2021 will again be teaming up with publishers to give away 90,000 books in various formats, with the World Book Night booklist to be announced later in December. The giveaway will see books and audiobooks donated to organisations including prisons, hospitals, youth centres, care homes and mental health groups, "to spread the joy of reading" to those who don’t regularly read for pleasure or have access to books.
Karen Napier, chief executive of the Reading Agency, said: "We’re really delighted to be partnering with Specsavers for the 2021 World Book Night. This year has been really challenging for everyone, and during lockdown in April, we saw first-hand how World Book Night and the #ReadingHour brought people together and spread the joy of reading across the nation. We can’t wait to celebrate the 10th Anniversary in April 2021, share the wonderful stories from our specially commissioned book, and help get the nation smiling."
Dame Mary Perkins, co-founder of Specsavers, said: "‘The Reading Agency always does a wonderful job of bringing people together through the love of reading, which continues to be one of our most popular past-times, increasingly so since we have had to spend more time at home. We are delighted to be working with them to support and encourage literacy and good vision so that people can continue to enjoy reading, and hope that this exciting new collection of stories will bring smiles to the faces of people across the UK."