Why is World Book Night important

Or go to What is World Book Night or Testimonials

"A single parent house, Mum answers the door, looks harassed and tired... I explain the concept of World Book Night, she says they don't do books... so no thanks! Behind her is a lad who is about 13 years old, I explain why I am giving away 'Touching the Void', and how it inspired me to climb Mt Blanc the highest mountain in Western Europe. He asks his mum could he have it? She says yes... A young lad gets given a book by a guy he doesn't know just because of a 90 second flash of inspiration... thank you World Book Night, you have changed someone’s world tonight!"
Steve Williams, Giver testimonial

The value of reading 

"The more I read the more I fought against the assumption that literature is for the minority – of a particular education or class. Books were my birthright too." Jeanette Winterson, Why be happy when you could be normal?

UNESCO defines literacy as the "ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society."

Literacy is a vital and fundamental life skill. Reading changes lives, improves employability, social interaction, enfranchisement and can have an effect on mental health and happiness.

Reading and literacy in the UK

There have been several recent research reports on literacy and reading in the UK.  The OECD’s report on skills which shows that 16 to 24 year-olds in England rank 22nd out of the 24 countries surveyed for literacy.

This sits alongside a body of statistics showing that, for a wealthy country with free education, we have a shocking literacy problem. 5.1m adults in England alone struggle with reading and 48% of the prison population has difficulty with basic literacy skills. 35% of adults don't read for pleasure (Department of Culture, Media and Sport annual Taking Part Survey).

You can read more about the literacy problems in the UK and how we are addressing these problems through our other children’s, young people’s and adults' reading programmes.

Through World Book Night and volunteering, we are sharing the value of reading in communities by delivering brilliant books directly into the hands of those who might never otherwise engage with books and reading.

We aim to change attitudes to reading by:

  • Directly engaging people who don’t regularly read by putting books into their hands via our network of passionate volunteers
  • Raising the profile of reading for pleasure
  • Promoting the idea that reading is for everyone, that reading is a fun, cool, engaging, social activity

"I love this idea. There's something primeval about it: to think of my story being passed on from one person to another makes me feel a connection with the earliest storytellers in their caves, or crouching around a fire on the dark savannah. The relationship between the storyteller, the story and the audience is an ancient one that long predates things like bestseller lists and royalty statements, or even money itself. It's really a form of enchantment. The gift idea is just as old and just as potent, and to see them combined in this brilliant and simple way is a delight. I'm very privileged to be part of it." Philip Pullman, World Book Night 2011 author



These are just a handful of the amazing stories previous World Book Night givers shared with us about their experiences. You can read many more on our testemonials page

"Maybe the best story was about the book I didn't give away. I asked Rani if she would like a copy of Small Island; would she promise to read it if I gave her one. "No" she said, "I'm 57 and I can't read nor write, I can't take your book" She wants to learn so much, she says, but how do you find out about where you can learn to read if you can't read? When she goes to the hospital or the bank, she says she has forgotten her glasses so other people fill in the forms for her. She told me she can't use trains as she can't read the stations. Her life is truly impoverished by her inability to read. So, we have made a pact. I have her phone numbers. I will find her a local literacy scheme, get her on it and next year, she will take a World Book Night book - and read it for herself." Sara Nathan, Giver testimonial

"It was the unexpected contributory outcome of giving a copy to my nephew and our conversation about war that stands out and will say with me. After several years, he finally sought help following his tours in Iraq and has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress and is now receiving support. Of course, it is not all down to the book, but I know for sure that it helped him to open up and express himself. Thank you for giving me such a wonderful opportunity." Anne Glynn, Giver testimonial

"I had a very moving time giving my 24 copies of Bill Bryson's 'Notes from a Small Island' this morning at the Christie Hospital, which is a specialist cancer hospital in south Manchester. This wonderful hospital helps us all to deal with our fears and the impact of this killer disease.

One woman told me she just couldn't read at the moment (cancer + drug side effects), but her husband took a copy, even though he said he never reads books - and he promised to read it to his wife. I hope he will do. One woman sitting on her own in the tea bar had looked a bit confused when I offered her a copy; she wasn't going to take one, as she "doesn't read books", but I suggested to her she might find it funny. When I returned to the tea bar a bit later, she'd been laughing out loud reading it, and had encouraged others to get a copy if I had any left." Marilyn Fecher, Notes from a Small Island

Next: Testimonials

On World Book Night

I'm so delighted to be involved with World Book Night. A book is the best way I know to escape from the world, and it's a privilege to be able to give that experience to others. I hope all the books that are given away are truly relished - happy reading!

Sophie Kinsella

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The 2014 Books

The 2013 Books

The 2012 Books

The 2011 Books

The World Book Night Book Club

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