World Book Day 2020: Duchess of Cornwall, Cowell and O'Leary to lead celebrations

World Book Day 2020: Duchess of Cornwall, Cowell and O'Leary to lead celebrations

The Duchess of Cornwall, Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell and children's author Dermot O'Leary will lead celebrations for World Book Day 2020 today (Thursday 5th March) with millions of children across the country taking part in the event, as research from the National Literacy Trust shows that only 25.8% of children said read daily in their free time. 

New research from the NLT, published today, shows that fewer children and young people are reading daily and that fewer are enjoying reading than they did in the past. In 2019, only 25.8% of children said they read daily in their free time. This is the lowest level the NLT has recorded since it first surveyed children in 2005. Just over half (53%) of children and young people said they enjoyed reading either "very much" or "quite a lot" —the lowest level evidenced by the NLT since 2013. Recent NLT research found children who took part in World Book Day are much more likely to enjoy reading than their peers, with many saying that they read more with their parents as a result of the initiative.

World Book Day c.e.o. Cassie Chadderton said: “Year on year, the evidence grows that World Book Day is having a positive impact on the reading behaviour of our children and young people. By putting more books directly into the hands of children and young people and, at the same time, encouraging everyone, everywhere to get into the habit of sharing stories regularly, World Book Day is helping to create readers for life."

As this picture emerges, World Book Day has rallied supporters including children’s author and World Book Day Ambassador O’Leary , the Duchess of Cornwall, novelist Marian Keyes, and husband and wife team and bestselling authors Giovanna and Tom Fletcher in support of the campaign. Waterstones Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell will join World Book Day authors Onjali Q Raúf and Robin Stevens, and a thousand children for the flagship World Book Day event at the HSBC UK National Cycling Centre in Manchester today.

Cowell also joined Prime Minister Boris Johnson and children from Charles Dickens Primary School in Southwark for an event at Downing Street to mark the occasion.

This year, World Book Day is calling on children, parents and carers to "Share a Million Stories". At the beginning of World Book Day week, more than 180,000 stories had already been shared. Story shares are being tracked on World Book Day's custom-made Share-o-Meter designed by World Book Day illustrator Rob Biddulph.

Share a Story Live events, in partnership with the NLT, will tour the UK with events in Bexhill-on-Sea, Middlesbrough and Glasgow, where low levels of literacy are seriously impacting people’s lives. In a special edition of the Beano, Dennis the Menace can be seen in a World Book Day-themed strip, mashing-up classic children’s tales in support of the Share a Million Stories campaign.

The Duchess of Cornwall will visit a London primary school with World Book Day author and creator of the number one bestselling Alex Rider books, Anthony Horowitz, to share a story with the whole school to add towards the national total of stories shared.

For the first time, World Book Day is partnering with McDonald's, which is printing £1 World Book Day tokens on all Happy Meal boxes between 5th February and 17th March, giving millions of families access to the £1 World Book Day books from bookshops and supermarkets around the country. Through pop-up book stalls at football stadiums nationwide, the National Literacy Trust and W H Smith will support professional clubs running Premier League Primary Stars to get World Book Day titles into the hands of children on match days throughout World Book Day month. 

Elsewhere the Roald Dahl Story Company is working with World Book Day to produce the first ever World Book Day story shared in British Sign Language. Acknowledging that sharing stories takes many forms, the Story Company has commissioned British Sign Language interpreter Helen Nelson to bring Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to life in a 10-minute clip – perfect for a story share.

24,000 World Book Day books are being distributed to children and young people visiting their parents in prison. For the first time, all prisons in the UK are taking part. World Book Day is also working with food banks across London to distribute 1,200 World Book Day books.

Throughout today, thousands of booksellers are celebrating the day in their communities, taking authors and illustrators into schools and running events instore and at external venues, as millions of children will be visiting to redeem their £1 World Book Day token for a World Book Day book, or to get £1/€1.50 off any full price book that takes their fancy.

Celebrations will be rounded off with two bedtime stories. At 6.50 p.m. families can tune into CBeebies to see O’Leary read Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler in a special World Book Day-themed CBeebies Bedtime Story episode. And at 7 p.m. children can go to the Roald Dahl Facebook channel to see the official World Book Day Bedtime Story as Stanley Tucci – star of the upcoming film" The Witches", in cinemas on October 2020 – reads from Roald Dahl’s The Witches.