Yes, even in an era of iPads and Kindles, YouTube videos and streaming services, going analog with a paper book remains popular. But for some readers, owning a book is a luxury, while for many kids, spending free time with books is no longer a beloved activity.
Today is Read Across America Day, which coincides with Dr. Seuss’s birthday. “My administration is committed to supporting volunteer and literacy programs that help young people and adults master reading,” says President Biden in a proclamation. “This work is crucial, as half of adults in the United States are unable to read a book written for the eighth-grade level, and nearly a quarter of American adults have not read a book over the last year.” That’s some scary stuff. The celebration goes global tomorrow, March 3, 2022, on the 25th anniversary of World Book Day in the United Kingdom and Ireland. What began as a UNESCO-sponsored day on April 23, 1995, has expanded to more than 100 countries worldwide, a global celebration of reading for pleasure.
For the March celebration, it’s an occasion to appreciate books—both their authors and their readers, particularly children. “You are a reader,” asserts the 2022 World Book Day theme, and the focus is on getting books into the hands of kids. Every U.K. schoolchild receives a token good toward the purchase of a book, because there’s nothing like having your own copy. More than 15 million £1 book tokens are distributed, and children can use them to buy specially priced £1 books or apply the token to other books. Children are also encouraged to dress up for the day as one of their favorite fictional characters.
UNESCO’s celebration is officially World Book and Copyright Day. April 23 was chosen because it marks the day in 1616 when both playwright/poet William Shakespeare and novelist Miguel de Cervantes died. While this day’s focus is less on readers, it promotes equal access to books through participation by librarians, publishers, and booksellers. Each year a World Book Capital is selected based on a city’s commitment to promote freedom of expression through books. Recent capitals include Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2020) and Tbilisi, Georgia (2021). For 2022, the book capital is Guadalajara, Mexico, chosen for its plan to use books to foster social change and build a more peaceful culture. Activities there will include an arts project on the Tower of Babel, poetry readings on local radio, and multimedia events drawing on literature, theater, and music.
Guadalajara is already a UNESCO Creative City, one of nearly 300 worldwide in such areas as music, crafts and folk art, gastronomy, and design. In 2021, the literature category added Jakarta, Indonesia, Vilnius, Lithuania, and Gothenburg, Sweden.
Here are a few ways to support World Book Day
- Shop at independent bookstores around the world—a few of our U.S. favorites are Birchbark Books & Native Arts (Minneapolis), Little City Books (Hoboken), and Blue Bicycle Books (Charleston), which all give extra attention to children’s books.
- Give used books to your local public library.
- Make donations to such book charities as Bibliothèques Sans Frontières (Libraries Without Borders), Books for Africa, and Book Aid International, which all supply books to the poor and to libraries in refugee camps, hospitals, and schools. Another nonprofit organization, Our Kids Read, donates books with positive characters from diverse cultures—including Native American, Black, Hispanic, and Southeast Asian—to U.S. K–5th-grade students and their classrooms.
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