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 WBN, 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.
There is a huge gulf between those who read every week and those who never read, who see reading as a chore, as something unenjoyable, uncool, that there is no point in doing or isn’t for people like them. Many regular readers take it for granted that everyone has had the same opportunity they have - to have been introduced to reading by someone passionate about it and to have had the opportunity to develop that passion themselves.
Through World Book Night and the thousands of volunteers, 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 our 2012 givers shared with us about their experiences. You can read many more here.
‘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
‘I intend to give my books away in HMP Northallerton, where I am currently serving a two year sentence. I am due for release in early April so, if I am chosen as a giver, I will have to make arrangements with the prison authorities for me to come back in on 23 April. I would like to give the books to other prisoners, many of whom are in their late teens or early twenties, and the majority of whom do not read books. When I was first sent to prison I was extremely depressed. Books have been my salvation. I began reading initially to pass the time but I very soon became addicted and now read two or three books a week. Leading on from this, I have enrolled on several courses, all of which I have passed, and I have recently signed up to write some book reviews’ Giver application
‘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. I met lots of patients and their family/friends, some of whom were a bit reluctant to accept a book - it's a difficult place for most who go there, and many people spend long hours in waiting rooms, anxious about what will happen during their appointment. Tough treatments, test results, bad news - this wonderful hospital helps us all to deal with our fears and the impact of this killer disease. I've been living with cancer for 15 years - 8 years ago, it spread and became incurable & terminal. So I know what it's like to sit - frightened, anxious, trying to be hopeful - in the waiting areas.
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. Another very elderly man, sitting alone quietly waiting for hospital transport after his appointment, shyly accepted a copy of the book, telling me he was now widowed - so living alone and facing serious illness on his own. He was happy to have his picture taken, as was a women sitting in a wheelchair nearby who was delighted to be offered a copy. I've attached the pics to this e-mail. 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. I also popped into the room where blood tests are done - I know all the phlebotomists (been challenging them with my troublesome veins for years!), and thought they might like a laugh. The lad who's ALWAYS successful in getting my blood told me he'd only read two books ever - he's a great phlebotomist, and I hope he might become a great reader too!
It was definitely the right place to give my books - hope others had a good time giving too this year!’
Marilyn Fecher, Notes from a Small Island