There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting lost in a captivating story that transports you to new worlds and broadens your horizons. Whether it’s the biographies of influential people like Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi, goth horror novels like Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” or classics like “Pride and Prejudice” or “The Old Man and the Sea,” books have been educating and inspiring us for thousands of years. This is why World Book Day is more than just a well-deserved holiday; it’s a celebration of the wonderful power of books and the joy of reading.
Books are more than just pieces of paper with words on them (or, in the case of digital books, a bunch of pixels on a screen). They’re a door into another world, whether that’s full of fiction and imagination or a factual world that teaches you incredible new things. World Book Day is especially meant to encourage a love of reading in children, but people of all ages can recognize and celebrate the day.
World Book Day has a strong connection with schools and is used worldwide to allow school children to engage with reading and their favorite books. It’s not just a day to indulge a love of books, but also a day where children and young people can gain access to books.
History of World Book Day
Books did not always look the way they do today, with their glossy covers and creamy pages. When writing systems were invented in ancient civilizations thousands of years ago, clay tablets were used. Later, humanity moved on to using papyrus. In the 3rd century, the Chinese were the first to make something that resembled today’s books in that they consisted of numerous thick, bamboo pages sewn together. Then, in the mid-15th century, Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press brought books into the industrial age, making them readily available to anyone who wanted to read them. It is thanks to this ingenious invention that we are all able to enjoy the works of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and many others in the comfort of our own homes today.
World Book Day was created on April 23rd, 1995, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Originally, the day was suggested to be on a day that honored the author Miguel de Cervantes. This would be either his birthday, October 7, or his death date, April 23. The latter date is the one that was chosen because it was also the date that William Shakespeare died and when Inca Garcilaso de la Vega died too. In fact, several other prominent authors have also died on April 23, making it a significant date for the literary world.
While most countries celebrate Book Day in April, the UK and Ireland have a tradition of celebrating on the first Thursday in March. In some countries, World Book Day actually takes place on other days of the year, despite the fact that the international event was created by UNESCO.
World Book Day Timeline
- 4000 BC – Scrolls are used by well-educated people and act as the predecessors to books.
- 1st Century AD – Codices are developed to make papers easier to handle and travel with.
- 1430s – Printing Press is invented by Johannes Gutenberg in Strasbourg, Germany.
- 1582 – First English Dictionary is created by Richard Mulcaster.
- 1923 – Booksellers in Spain instigate a book exchange on April 23 in honor of Miguel de Cervantes.
- 1971 – Project Gutenberg begins at the University of Illinois, making electronic books readily available.
- 1995 – World Book Day is created by UNESCO.
- March 6, 1997 – World Book Day is celebrated in the UK and Ireland on the first Thursday in March.
- 2000 – World Book Capital City Initiative is started.
- 2011 – World Book Night starts in the UK.
How to Celebrate World Book Day
Passionate book lovers can celebrate World Book Day in a number of ways and spread the positive effects that reading can have on your life. It’s a day to encourage others to read more, especially if you’re a parent or work with students. You can read a favorite book and even read it out loud to children, young people, or perhaps some older people who would appreciate someone reading to them.
The best way to celebrate this day is to find the time to do some reading. Curl up on the couch or a blanket outside with a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy every last page.
If you have children, this could be the perfect day to teach them about the joys of reading. Pick a topic your child is interested in, and spend part of this day exploring the magical world of literature together!
You could also get together with some friends for a reading of a book you all love. Hearing someone read aloud sentences you have only ever murmured to yourself could cause you to see them in a whole new way by adding feeling or emphasis of some certain elements. Furthermore, varied interpretations of a book could make for animated discussions about who did what and why they did it.
Whichever way you choose to celebrate World Book Day, make sure it’s an educational experience for you and those you care about. As acclaimed author Alan Bennett once said: “A book is a device to ignite the imagination.” World Book Day is a registered UK charity on a mission to give every child and young person a book of their own. It’s also a celebration of authors, illustrators, books, and (most importantly) a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.