World Book Day: The History and Activities You Need to Know
World Book Day is coming up yet again, and there has never been a better time to get snuggled in with a good book or introduce your kids to the magic they can contain. Thursday, March 2, marks World Book Day in the United Kingdom and Ireland. For the rest of the world, World Book Day falls on April 23rd. This date was decided on by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Maybe you’ve never heard of book day and are trying to figure out what it’s all about, or maybe you are trying to figure out some good activities with which to celebrate the day. In this article, we are going to cover the history and purpose of the day, as well as give you some ideas on how you can mark the occasion.
The History of World Book Day
Though World Book Day was started by the United Nations in 1995, the history of the date it falls on goes back to the 1920’s. Booksellers in Catalonia, Spain wanted to commemorate the day since it was the date of the death of Miguel Cervantes. Miguel Cervantes is widely considered one of the greatest authors of the Spanish language, and his works include Don Quixote – regarded as one of the first novels in Western literature. Coincidentally this day also happens to be the day William Shakespeare died as well as a significant day in the lives of a number of other authors. The fact that so many literary figures have reason to mark the date led to it becoming World Book Day.
This day is used by most countries as their National book day, or National reading day, with a few exceptions.
Many schools use this day as an opportunity to promote reading to their students and have fun events where the children are encouraged to either dress up or present a reading of their favorite characters and stories. Book trends in the recent years have seen a huge influx of Harry Potter, which alone has motivated an entirely new generation of readers.
Digital books are something that should not be shunned as well. Although it doesn’t feel the same, the younger generations will be consuming media digitally whether we like it or not. I feel World book day is an opportunity to encourage reading with tangible books and digital books. If we fail to adapt to the changing world, we risk raising a generation with no concept of long-form reading outside of “outdated” paperbacks or magazines.
World Book Day Activities
Although reading is obviously a favorite activity of an event celebrating books, many teachers and parents wish to know what other activities they can encourage in order to motivate reading. There are a number of activities that have proven effective in this endeavor and should be encouraged. Coming dressed as your favorite character from a book is a common occurrence and a favorite in many places. Another common activity is encouraging readers to create an alternative cover to their favorite books. In my art college, a number of designers actually went on to use these types of creations as portfolio pieces.
A book exchange can also be fun. Ask young readers to bring in their favorite book and trade it with another student. Usually kids will find something interesting in the books their peers enjoy. Acting out scenes from books they mutually enjoy can also be a very entertaining activity.
Writing their own short stories can also help build appreciation for the craft of storytelling. An activity I always enjoyed was joint storytelling. Each participant gets 5 minutes to write a paragraph of a story. After the time expires, the page is moved to the next member who then continues the story from where it left off. Seeing the outcome of 10 different people telling one story can make for some hilarious results.
You can also focus on World Book Day themes. Show the range of books from historical literature to science fiction. Many younger kids may not have found a niche that appeals to them yet simply because they may be unaware of the range of offerings available. For inspiration, check out ‘Book Club’ by Loren D. Estleman on Geeker to find out how Estleman combines mystery, murder and an appreciation for rare books in this novel.
Researching how to get the new digital generation interested in reading may also require you spend some time looking into the interactive books available on Kindle and IPad devices. These are a whole new generation of books that appeal to young readers on multiple levels. I think this is where the future really lies, and if you can encourage reading at a young age, even if it’s on a digital device, you can create a lifetime full of books.