World Book Day (U.K. & Ireland), the annual celebration that "aims to change lives through a love of books and shared reading," was held yesterday. Like everything else on the planet, WBD 2021 had to be significantly altered due to challenges posed by Covid-19 precautions. The festivities necessarily tended toward the virtual and socially distant.
There was also some good news to share about reading habits after a year of pandemic-induced isolation. BookTrust, CLPE, National Literacy Trust, the Reading Agency and children's publisher Egmont, along with Nielsen Books, collaborated to offer insights on the impact of the past year on reading for pleasure, and children's life chances. Among their findings:
- Many children embraced reading at the beginning of the pandemic. The majority looked online for reading inspiration, with YouTube (45%), social media (28%) and friends (31%) cited as a key source of ideas.
- Books provided a valuable resource to support children's wellbeing, with young people reporting it helped them relax (40%) and made them feel happy (35%).
- 82% of teachers found ways of reading aloud to their classes during the pandemic because it provided emotional support as well as developing literacy skills.
The research also found that parents read more with children and encouraged kids to read more as well. While remote learning could be a challenge for many families, parents who read aloud to their children every day "noticed an improvement in wellbeing, behavior, family bonds and attainment with schoolwork (even when home educating)."
On the negative side, access to books remains a serious issue, particularly among disadvantaged children and families. Despite many schools implementing quarantine initiatives and delivery services, 40% of primary-level children were unable to take books home. A year into the pandemic, reading has decreased slightly, according to Nielsen Books.
"It's wonderful to see how many children and families have felt the benefit of shared reading during the lockdowns, but this evidence shows that too many children in the U.K. don't have access to books," said WBD CEO Cassie Chadderton. "World Book Day aims to change lives through a love of books and shared reading. Our mission to ensure that all children can experience the life-changing power of books and reading has never been more critical."
|At Stanford's Travel Shop: "It's that time of year again. Show us your map wrapped kids dressed as atlases for #WorldBookDay."
Independent bookshops celebrated this very different WBD in their own ways. Here's a sampling from social media posts:
Far from the Madding Crowd, Linlithgow, Scotland: "Happy World Book Day everyone! We have all the £1 titles now in stock and ready to be collected, but there is absolutely no rush this year as we will keep the offer running until we're allowed to reopen, or until we run out of stock--whichever comes first! To collect your World Book Day book, just contact us to make an appointment. There's no need to pre-select the title--when you come to the shop, you essentially have 15 minutes to 'browse' each title in our secure and Covid-safe entrance hall."
Bookbugs and Dragon Tales, Norwich, England: "TEACHERS! SCHOOLS! HOMESCHOOLERS! We have exciting news about our very own World Book Day (UK & Ireland) Bookbugs Bookfest! We have been busily collecting content for our day celebrating all the brilliant books and have some amazing authors, illustrators and workshop providers ready [to] help make WBD special.... We've created this because we knew your little ones wouldn't be able to come into the shop for the day but we wanted to give something back to all the schools and educators who have supported us."
Forum Books, Corbridge, England: "Lockdown may have prevented us from welcoming you all into the bookshop today but that's not going to stop us from celebrating! Throughout the day we're looking forward to virtually seeing lots of you... for our At Home With BOOK BONANZA featuring some truly incredible children's authors.... But whatever you're doing today--whether you're dressed up at home, partying virtually at school, or having a quiet afternoon read--we hope you all have a fantastic World Book Day!"
The Nenagh Bookshop, Nenagh, Ireland: "We will miss the children calling in to the Bookshop on World Book Day.... Please, hold onto your WBD Token until we reopen! We will honor them indefinitely."
|Hermione at Darling Reads in Horbury
Darling Reads, Horbury, England: "With the strange times being what they are, we know that not everyone will have been given a token this year. We don't want anyone to miss out so you can now order your free World Book Day book on our website, regardless of if you have a token or not."
Griffin Books, Penarth, Wales: "We might be in lockdown, but don't panic, you can still exchange your World Book Day vouchers for one of this year's fabulous titles.... Due to the current lockdown restrictions and with many children still home schooling, we are extending our World Book Day offer and will accept vouchers until the end of the summer term. Happy Reading!"
ebb & flo bookshop, Chorley, England: "Happy World Book Day! We've lots of books waiting to go to a good home. Bring your token, choose a title from our window and knock on the door.... And if you haven't been given a token, but really really want a WBD book, let me know. We won't send any child away without one."
Booksellers Association: "Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child's future success--more than their family circumstances, their parents' educational background or their income.... Bookshops are a big part of what makes World Book Day special. Thanks to you, World Book Day can bring the transformative power of reading for pleasure to more children and young people."