History of World Book Day 2021
World Book Day, also known as International Day of the Book, is an annual event on 23 April celebrating authors, readers, illustrators, and books. It is officially organized by UNESCO and is also celebrated in the United Kingdom every first Thursday in March.
Some people like to read the biographies of the most influential people in history, like Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi. Some people like novels that send chills down their spines, from goth horror novels like Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” to Stephen King’s epistolary novel, “Carrie”. Some prefer the classics, like “Pride and Prejudice” or the “Old Man and the Sea”.
But regardless of the kind of books you like the most, the indisputable truth is that the world would not be the same without books. Books have been educating and inspiring us for thousands of years, so it should go without saying that World Book Day is more than a well-deserved holiday.
Books are more than simple pieces of paper with words on them (or, in the case of digital books, a bunch of pixels on a screen).
They’re a door into another world, whether that’s one full of fiction and imagination or a factual world that teaches you incredible new things. World Book Day is all about celebrating the wonderful power of books and the joy of reading. It’s especially meant to help encourage a love of reading in children, but people of all ages can recognize and celebrate the day.
World Book Day has a strong connection with schools, and it’s used worldwide to allow school children to engage with reading and their favorite books. It’s not just a day to indulge in a love of books, but also a day where children and young people can gain access to books.
Also known as World Book and Copyright Day or International Day of the Book, the day is also designed to promote publishing and copyright.
History of World Book Day
Books did not always look the way they do today, with their glossy covers and creamy pages. When writing systems were invented in ancient civilizations thousands of years ago, clay tablets were used. Later, humanity moved on to using papyrus. In the 3rd century, the Chinese were the first to make something that resembled today’s books in that they consisted of numerous thick, bamboo pages sewn together.
Then, in the mid-15th century, Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press brought books into the industrial age, making them readily available to anyone who wanted to read them. It is thanks to than ingenious invention that we are all able to enjoy the works of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and many others in the comfort of our own homes today.
World Book Day was created on April 23rd, 1995, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The connection between that date and books, however, was made in Spain in 1923, as it is the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, prominent Spanish Chronicler.
There were a few ideas for the day of the year that World Book Day should be held. Originally, Vicente Clavel Andrés, a Valencian writer, suggested that the day should be on a day that honored the author Miguel de Cervantes.
This would be either his birthday, October 7, or his death date, April 23. The latter date is the one that was chosen because it was also the date that William Shakespeare died and when Inca Garcilaso de la Vega died too. In fact, several other prominent authors have also died on April 23 – perhaps authors should be wary of this date!
In some countries, World Book Day actually takes place on other days of the year, despite the fact that the international event was created by UNESCO. For example, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Ireland all celebrate their own World Book Day events on a different day. However, the international day has been held on the same day each year since it began in 1995.
- In 1923, booksellers in Catalonia, Spain, first connected 23 April and books. Vicente Clavel Andrés, a Valencian writer, believed that author Miguel de Cervantes should be honored.
- Originally, the celebration was on Cervantes’ birthday, 7 October, but was later changed to his death day on 23 April.
- It was only in 1995 that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially designated 23 April as the date to celebrate World Book and Copyright Day.
- The date is also the death and birth anniversary of prominent authors including William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, Robert Bridges, and Michael Crichton.
- Each year, UNESCO chooses a World Book Capital where activities are held and supported by the book industry. In 2018, Athens was chosen as the capital wherein books would be made accessible to all city residents.
How to celebrate World Book Day
Passionate book lovers can celebrate World Book Day in a number of ways, and spread the positive ways reading can affect your life. It’s the day when you can put some thought into how to encourage others to read more too, especially if you’re a parent or you work with students. You can read a favorite book and even read it out loud to children, young people, or perhaps some older people who would appreciate someone reading to them.
The absolute best way to celebrate this day would be to find the time to do some reading. Do you have a book you just can’t get around to finishing? Today’s the time to curl up on the couch or a blanket outside with a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy every last page.
If you have children, this could be the perfect day to teach them about the joys of reading. In today’s world, we are so flooded with images and videos that we run a very real risk of abandoning reading entirely–why bother if we can just watch a movie?
Imagination is a child’s best friend, so make sure you contribute to keeping that little imagination as active as possible. Pick a topic your child is interested in, and spend part of this day exploring the magical world of literature together!
Yet another way to go about celebrating this day would be to get together with some friends for a reading of a book you all love.
Hearing someone read aloud sentences you have only ever murmured to yourself could cause you to see them in a whole new way by adding feeling or emphasis of some certain elements. Furthermore, varied interpretations of a book could make for animated discussions about who did what and why they did it.
Whichever way you choose to celebrate World Book Day, make sure it’s an educational experience for you and those you care about.
As acclaimed author Alan Bennett once said: “A book is a device to ignite the imagination.” World Book Day is a registered UK charity on a mission to give every child and young person a book of their own. It’s also a celebration of authors, illustrators, books, and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.
Unlike some other days started by the UN, there are no themes for World Book Day, so you’re free to think up anything you like to celebrate.
You can find various materials and inspiration from UNESCO each year, which will help to inspire you and encourage you to think of some creative ways to celebrate the day. You don’t need to be a teacher or someone who works with children to make this day a fun one, although it is a fantastic way to encourage children to read.
World Book Day 2020: Theme/Message
According to the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, the theme/message of 2020 sums up in these words: “Books have the unique ability both to entertain and to teach.
They are at once a means of exploring realms beyond our personal experience through exposure to different authors, universes, and cultures, and a means of accessing the deepest recesses of our inner selves.”
In 2019, it was “Books are a form of cultural expression that lives through and as part of a chosen language. Each publication is created in a distinct language and is intended for a language-specific reading audience.
A book is thus written, produced, exchanged, used, and appreciated in a given linguistic and cultural setting. This year we highlight this important dimension because 2019 marks the International Year of Indigenous Languages, led by UNESCO, to reaffirm the commitment of the international community in supporting indigenous peoples to preserve their cultures, knowledge, and rights.”
World Book Day: Purpose
On this occasion, worldwide tribute is given to books and authors and also to encourage people to discover the pleasure of reading. This will generate respect for those who have made irreplaceable contributions to social and cultural progress.
The UNESCO Prize for Children’s and Young People’s Literature in the Service of Tolerance is awarded. Also, this day will increase understanding among people regarding copyright laws and other measures to protect intellectual copyright.
No doubt this day become a platform for people across the world and especially the stakeholders of the book industry including authors, publishers, teachers, librarians, public and private institutions, humanitarian NGOs, and the mass media to come together to promote literacy and help everyone to have access to educational resources.
World Book Day: Symbols
Every year posters are designed and circulated around the world to promote books, reading, understanding, etc. The poster images are designed in a way to encourage people, particularly children, to read books and appreciate literature. In fact, the logo is also mentioned for World Book and Copyright Day.
So, World Book and Copyright Day are celebrated on Friday 23rd April to encourage people about books, reading, to understand copyright laws and measures to protect intellectual copyright.
The last 20 Years of World Book Day History
It may be surprising to some to discover that the origins of World Book Day can be found in Catalonia as far back as 1923
. Starting life as a Catalonian tradition of giving books away to friends and family in honor of the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes (amongst other things, he wrote the famous book Don Quixote). It wasn’t until 1995 however, that we saw the first proper instance of the day we now know and love the world over.
World Book Day was first created in 1995 by UNESCO as ‘World Book & Copyright day’, and was aimed at promoting reading, publishing, and copyright. Since then, however, it has grown bigger than anyone could ever have hoped for, with over 100 countries now taking part in World Book Day Celebrations that encompass everything from reading and writing, to fancy dress and drama events.
Traditionally celebrated on 23rd April, this date was selected to honor the deaths of William Shakespeare and Miguel De Cervantes, as well as other prominent authors including Inca Garcilaso de la Vega who were all connected to that date by virtue of birth or death.
The UK however, celebrates World Book Day UK on the first Thursday in March so that it can be celebrated in school term time. This gives school children maximum exposure to all of the fabulous events and activities World Book Day has to offer and allows them and their parents to enter into the spirit of the day.
World Book Day as we now imagine it in the UK was first launched in 1998 by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair as a way to allay fears and concerns over poor reading and writing standards, and is a non-profit charity with the sole focus on ‘creating readers for the future by igniting a love of books and reading in children and young people.’
The founder of World Book Day UK, Baroness Gail Rebuck, also Chair of Penguin Random House the UK and founder of Quick Reads, says: “In 1997 the level of children’s engagement with reading was at a point of national crisis.
The previous year a Government report had been released showing that 42% of 11-year-olds failed to achieve level 4 in reading and writing on entry to secondary school. We wanted to do something to reposition reading and our message is the same today as it was then – that reading is fun, relevant, accessible, exciting, and has the power to transform lives. I’ve seen first-hand how World Book Day has affected social change and long may it continue.”
As part of the push to encourage more children to read, World Book Day UK partnered with National Book Tokens and provided all UK Schoolchildren with a £1 Book Token to be used on specific £1 World Book Day books, or as a contribution to any book they liked. With a variety of other activities including special activity days, book swaps and book readings with the celebrity £1 book writers also taking place in order to keep the whole day revolving around book based fun.
For the first 2 years, World Book Day released specially created anthologies priced at £1 for children to use their book tokens on. From 2000 however, a selection of different £1 books have been released each year, giving children greater choice on what to read and allowing the charity a variety of books aged at all range of reading levels.
It’s here that we can see one of the greatest successes of World Book Day, with over 13 million book tokens being exchanged for one of the nearly 150 books written since the day’s inception. Amazingly, this number continues to rise year on year, with 789,738 book tokens being exchanged in 2016 and a concerted effort is underway to top 1 million this year. It’s a clear sign that for children, reading has become fun again!
Seizing on the opportunity to encourage these literary celebrations, 2006 saw another milestone for World Book Day with the launch of ‘Quick Reads’.
Targeting emergent adult readers, Quick Reads are written specifically for entry-level readers but also designed to appeal to wide audiences. This ensures readers are still captivated by the stories whilst being able to read them easily. Fantastically, all Quick Reads books can also be purchased with the help of a £1 National Book Token, helping break down the barriers to adult literacy.
World Book Day, however, has become about much more than just book tokens and for the past 19 years has been growing hugely year on year. The majority of UK schools now see the event as a key part of their educational calendar and offer a huge range of World Book Day activities for children including reading games, practical events, and most importantly, fancy dress.
Dressing up has completely revolutionized World Book Day, and is now probably the most recognizable aspect of the day. Schools have really taken on board the benefits a fancy dress costume can create through recreating favorite characters, keeping reading exciting, and creating discussions around chosen books. It also gives a fantastic opportunity for parents to talk with their children about their literary heroes, old and new.
Designed at encouraging enthusiasm in reading, these activities bring stories and characters to life and give children a chance to really immerse themselves in literature in a unique way.
The past 20 years have been a whirlwind of successes with World Book Day going from strength to strength since its creation to become the biggest literary day of the year in the UK and a staple of the school calendar.