The World Book Night blog

I gave 14 of my books away (Casino Royale by Ian Fleming)in an hour and a half this morning, on the main road near the Job Centre at Connah's Quay, North Wales. The people who accepted books were delighted with them, and interested to hear about World Book Night. One man said he had not read a book for years, but fondly remembered enjoying trips to the library when he was a young boy. He was looking forward to trying "Casino Royale." I was surprised at the number of people who said, "We don't do reading in our house!" One lady said that she couldn't read, but encouraged her husband to take a copy. The book seemed to appeal to all ages. One man asked me what I was getting out of it, and I said, just the pleasure of sharing my love of reading! I found it quite hard to approach complete strangers on the street at first, and was surprised how many people refused to take copies, but the pleasure on the faces of those people who did accept copies really made up for any negative reactions.

I gave two copies away yesterday to boys I have helped with GCSE English, who persevered despite finding it difficult - both of them were James Bond fans. I put the book in an envelope for one of them, with the message: "You've seen the films..." on the outside, and then a note on the inside attached to the book saying "Now try the book!" His mum texted me later to say he was thrilled, because he had been at the hospital when I delivered the book to his house, and had broken his toe, meaning he had to take time off from his much loved gymnastics, so receiving the book really cheered him up.

After being made redundant from teaching, being a World Book Night giver encouraged me to take a job as a library assistant, which enabled me to share my love of reading with people of all ages. One of my books is destined for the son of one of my book group members, who is apparently a reluctant reader, but likes James Bond. I gave another to a young man who visits the library regularly to use the computers, but does not borrows books - he seemed pleased to receive it. Two other books are going to people who are ill, who also have teen/young adult children who don't do much reading.

Once again World Book Night has been very enjoyable for me as a giver. I hope I will be lucky enough to be picked as a giver again next year.

- Grace

"I started at 10am by approaching Robert, a Big Issue seller in a suburban shopping parade. English was not his first language , he was gracious and polite and accepted a book with a 'God Bless' I realised I would have to revise my 'Sales Pitch'. People are naturally suspicious of something for nothing. I can see in their eyes either warily 'Is this a scam?', or wearily 'Not another Do-Gooder'

Another suburb and a lady Big Issue seller outside Tesco, she told me she spoke English but didn't read it. I asked if there was anyone who would read it to her? Declined.

B.I. seller outside Post Office said he had difficulty reading and had no one to read to him. We laughed that he was doing better business than I was

Two homeless men sitting on the pavement, smoking and looking at the newspaper. They accepted after asking what the book was all about. Good thing I'd read it.

I'm beginning to feel a bit like a kerb crawler going from suburb to suburb looking for the red tabard of the Big Issue seller. A couple of Royal Mail staff came close to getting nobbled along with Arsenal fans and Welsh rugby supporters. Anyone wearing a red anorak really.

11.30am. Popped home for a wee and a tea. Lovely sunny day. Four books down and sixteen to go. I'll head into the city centre next, hoping lots of people are about.

1pm. Romanian B.I.seller outside Sainsburys. Doesn't read English but his daughter is in college and will help him.

B.I.seller outside M&S has never read a whole book in his life. I challenged him to read this one and said I'd go back to buy B.I. next week and we can discuss the book. I did, but he hadn't. (Yet)

B.I. seller near the castle didn't think he liked reading but after I'd explained the story he said he'd try to read it along with his partner.

In my favourite cafe - two women who never read and don't know why promised they'd give it a go when I outlined the story. Their young collegue asked if he could have a copy too. A couple of weeks later one of these women spotted me and shouted 'I got sunburn because of you'. She'd become engrossed.

A Romanian B.I. seller accepted saying his English was poor but he would try.

Another Romanian B.I. seller wanted me to buy a second copy of the magazine. I wanted him to accept the book. We had little common language but were able to laugh together -
'No book. No speak English'
'But you sell a magazine in English'
'I no read it'

A young busker thanked me profusely and wished me a good day.He was obviously overwhelmed by a random act of kindness. Thank you WBN.

Another busker loved stories and we chatted for a long timeabout mutual favourites. He couldn't afford to buy, and was looking forward to sitting up until 4am with a brand new book.

I went into the market and sat beside a gentleman waiting for a cuppa. He told me his eyesight is such that he can't read as he always has but won't be deterred, using audio books and iplayer. He asked if he could have a copy for his wife to encourage her to read it, as they had amazingly been to Spinalonga (The Island. Victoria Hislop). They told me a lot that added to my enjoyment of the book. Serendipity. Their daughter also asked for a copy.

Two young girls serving ice cream said they didn't read but would give it a go.

An assistant in a shoe shop said she didn't find time for reading but said it sounded like the story of a good film, and she'll try to get into it on the train to work.

I helped a young Mum struggling up steps with a buggy, baby, and two toddlers.She was very happy to accept a book and said it might change her life.

That's what books do!"

- Carole

"This is the second year I have been a giver for World Book Night and this year I gave out copies of Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring. I was busy giving out my books and I happened to give a book to a young girl and she burst in to tears.

When I asked what was wrong she told me that she was a victim of domestic abuse and that her partner had ripped all her books up to teach her a lesson and one of the books that had been destroyed was the book that I had just given her.

She said she was trying to get her life back in order and she gave me a hug and said that this gift had helped her on one more step along that path.

I then broke down."

- Wendy

"I really didn’t know what to expect when I first got in contact with Sue Torr – I had sent several emails to various people involved with community groups, once I knew I`d been chosen as a volunteer. My 20 books were Bernhard Schlink`s `The Reader`, which I chose because it was the first book we read and discussed in a group, which I set up in 2011 with my friend Helen. We loved this book, and had great debate about the characters, and the moral questions raised by it. Helen became unwell in the same year, and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The first anniversary of her death was just a few weeks ago. So I chose this book remembering my dear friend Helen and better times, as well as for it being a great story.

I found Sue Torr`s name, and her story, on a website, while looking for community groups in Devonport, Plymouth. Sue struggled for much of her life with being unable to read, and finally learned at the age of 38, after admitting to herself  just how much her lack of reading had been holding her back in life. So she started to learn. She says she is always learning and improving. Due to Sue`s passion to help others help themselves, she`s been running the Shout it Out learning project for those wishing to improve their writing and reading by offering a safe and supportive place to develop and explore literacy skills. She gives her time voluntarily, as do all the helpers, including Sue`s daughter. Sue has been so active in spreading the word about reading, that she was awarded an MBE, for her services to learning. She`s since written a book about her experiences, and a play, which is used to highlight the need to read, for all those who keep their lack of reading a secret. The group have produced a collection of their creative writings, called `Voices`.

So I called Sue and asked her if I could come along to one of the Shout it Out sessions, and happily, there was one on World Book Night! I had a great time, meeting people who made me feel very at home. After we`d introduced ourselves, I talked about why I had come to the meeting, and about World Book Night, then about the book itself, by way of giving some background. As a taster, I read Chapter 17 of Part 2 of the book. Everyone seemed extremely enthusiastic and motivated, and very pleased to be offered a copy of `The Reader`. One gentleman, David, had already finished reading aloud Chapter 1 with a volunteer by his side, before I`d finished my gratefully received cup of tea! Another woman, Kelly, was writing her life story, and read me some of her poems, which were incredibly uplifting. She came to the group to use the time to write, and very much appreciated the encouragement  received from Sue.

All the people I met were aware they were on a genuine journey toward the freedom of reading for pleasure. Whatever else reading is used for, and of course, that`s pretty much everything, being able to enjoy reading stories is something all those who received a book last night were keen to do.

There`s  Janet, who listens to her daughters discussing books, and is determined to do this with them too. There`s Sarah, who says she`ll `have a go` at the novel, and Sam, who said he `may need a bit of help` with the book, but was very happy with his copy, Michael said he`s definitely going to read it, Martin had not seen the film, (he doesn`t like Kate Winslet, sorry Kate!) but was very keen to read the book, and Sue ( who has seen the film adaptation and thought it was `brilliant`) said “I can`t wait to get home and start reading `The Reader`, because I can relate to the character Hanna going through life not being able to read.”

Check out Sue`s website www.suetorrmbe.co.uk

Apart from the Shout it Out group, I managed to give copies on the night (after some persuasion, which surprised me a bit!) to a taxi driver,  2 shop assistants in the Co-op, a shopper, and a receptionist… go me! I hope all the fab volunteers giving books had as much fun as I did, and I`m very grateful to World Book Night for helping me to experience that humbling feeling of meeting  people trying their best to be even better... go Shout it Out"

- Sandra, Plymouth

"First, a huge thank you for including English4Moray in your selection of institutional givers for World Book Night 2013.

I never expected to be successful in receiving our 100 copies as I know you had lots of requests and English4Moray students had a brilliant time deciding the best way to distribute the copies. Plus, the book was a brilliant choice for the students as 'The Road Home' is about leaving your home country seeking better prospects in the UK but always hoping to eventually go back home having earned some money so that you can have a better life.

English4Moray teaches English to speakers of other languages living, working and visiting the north of Scotland and the whole experience has put a huge smile on everyone's face!

Admittedly, the complexity of language in 'The Road Home' was above the majority of students but this just meant finding a more creative and engaging way for students to take part and distribute 100 copies.

So, thinking caps on.....I came up with the idea of students organising their own World Book Night. Even students with a low level of English took part and everyone had a really positive experience.

Students gave books to a huge range of local people including friends from their home countries living locally who had a good level of English but who had never or seldom read, bought or borrowed an English novel.... so, the audience reached came from diverse backgrounds including Poland, Portugal, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia, Thailand, Laos, Palestine, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic,Germany and Sweden. Such is the face of multi- cultural Moray in the north of Scotland! Students also gave books to their British friends, family members, neighbours and workmates. So, employees of Abbeyside Care Home, Walkers Shortbread factories in Elgin and Aberlour plus Johnstone's Cashmere Mill all enjoyed the surprise of a free book!

English4Moray also gave books to a range of local people and organisations who impact on the life of students...so, again, the choice of book was positively received. Staff at Lifeskills ( a project for the unemployed), Moray Business Gateway ( help students to start their own business), Skills Development Scotland ( Careers Office) and the UNISON migrant representative all embraced World Book Night.

How did English4Moray students benefit? Well, they had to try to understand the storyline from the back cover....some reading in English.Then they had to ask people if they would like a copy and engage in conversation....some speaking in English. Now they're busy asking the readers what's happening in the storyline.....some listening in English and the chance for more conversation, fun and laughter.

What, ultimately, has World Book Night given English4Moray students? The chance to feel part of something and to actively use their English. Some spoke to neighbours and workmates in an extended conversation for the first time. As one student said ' I asked 2 Scottish girls at work if they would like a free book. They couldn't believe it was free and wondered what I was up to! When I explained about World Book Night they were really pleased and couldn't stop smiling. They told me that they never bought books but would try this one. Now they speak to me in a more friendly way and this makes me feel more accepted at work'.

The power of books works in many mysterious ways! You can see some photos and text about World Book Night on the English4Moray Facebook business page - see our link below.

Here's hoping English4Moray succeeds in taking part again in 2014 and that the choice of book is equally brilliant!"

- Angela, Moray

This year was my first year giving out books on World Book Night and I couldn't have been more excited about it. Not only did I get to hand out free books but I got to hand out The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

As an English teacher in a state school, I decided to hand the books out to pupils I teach. Many of them don't read for pleasure and, for a lot of them, the last thing they probably read was Of Mice and Men in my lesson. I wasn't really sure what reaction I'd get from pupils but I was really surprised by the number of pupils who were eager to be get a copy.
I explained to pupils all about World Book Night, why I'd applied and chosen this book and who the books were aimed at and at the end of each lesson gave out some copies. The pupils were genuinely excited and couldn't believe that this brand new book was theirs. They loved the fact that they had been personalised with the giver's name and I wrote a little message in them as well. I could have easily handed out double or triple the number of books!

Handing out the books was an amazing experience, but what was even better was when I came into school the following day. The first thing many of the pupils said to me was how they'd started the book last night and were up to such a bit. They were asking me about the start of the novel and discussing how Patrick Ness shows the never-ending Noise in the story. Some were even wondering what it would be like if you could really hear everyone's thoughts. They were so enthusiastic and it was lovely to be able to talk to them about a book we're both reading and enjoying. Some pupils were even asking their friends if they can borrow their copy when they've finished!
So I'd like to thank World Book Night on behalf of myself and my pupils for this brilliant experience. I can't wait for next year!

- Laura

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On World Book Night

Reading is still alive – in better health than ever, actually – and World Book Night proves it. To be included as one of the 25 titles is a real thrill.

Lee Child

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