Authors gave a passionate defence of libraries and teachers at an event held last night (23rd April) to mark World Book Night.
Writers including David Almond, Lynda La Plante [pictured] and Irvine Welsh made speeches and gave readings during the event at the Shaw Theatre in London, the flagship event of World Book Night, which saw thousands of volunteers across the UK giving out 250,000 books to people to spread the love of reading.
Almond, author of Skellig (Hodder Children's Books), one of the titles that make up the 20-strong list of books to be given out, defended libraries to applause from the audience. He said: "The library is one of human kind's greatest inventions, a great democratic force. People are saying they don't matter any more but they do matter, they are central to our culture, and we lose them at great peril."
Prime Suspect writer La Plante, whose book was also among those given out, described her own experiences growing up with dyslexia. "I got to age eight and was confident and popular, but no one had picked up on the fact that I couldn't actually read… a teacher spotted that I was holding Wuthering Heights upside down. They asked me to stay after class and asked me to read the first line. I couldn't do it. The words were all jumbled. But they didn't embarrass me, and they didn't humiliate me, or make me feel stupid. They helped me." She said that when she read her first book on her own, Little Women, it was a "magical" experience: "I couldn't believe that I could run my finger along the lines in the book, and somehow hear them back in my brain."
Other writers taking part in the event included Sarah Winman, Elizabeth Fremantle and Annabel Pitcher. Events also took place around the country, including Alexander McCall Smith in conversation in Edinburgh and Stella Duffy at Woolwich Library in Greenwich.
As well as volunteers handing out books, a record number of institutions such as homeless hostels, hospitals, prisons and social housing projects also handed out titles, delivered around the country by Yodel.