World Book Day – 23 April & 5 March 2020!

Are you sitting comfortably?

In the lead up to World Book Day (WBD) in the UK I thought it might be interesting to explore how WBD came about, why the UK chose to celebrate in March, point you in the direction of a short story competition, find out which city is World Book Capital for 2020 and what to do if you fancy hosting WBC 2022. It’s a longish post with plenty of links to explore so you might want to grab your favourite beverage and snack for this one!

Let’s begin…

World Book Day, also known as World Book and Copyright Day, or International Day of the Book, is an annual event organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote reading, publishing, and copyright.

“A window onto our inner lives, books are also the doorway to mutual respect and understanding between people, across all boundaries and differences.” Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO (2019)

It is believed the original idea was that of the Valencian writer Vicente Clavel Andrés as a way to honour the author Miguel de Cervantes, first on 7 October, his birth date, then on 23 April, his death date.

23 April is such a symbolic date for world literature. As it is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare* and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of many other authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla, Manuel Mejía Vallejo, Ngaio Marsh and J P Donleavy.

It was, therefore, a natural choice for UNESCO’s General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date. Encouraging everyone, especially young people, to discover the pleasure of reading. It also hopes to gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity. With this in mind, UNESCO created the World Book and Copyright Day.

So World Book Day was first celebrated fully and continues to be recognised on 23 April. World Book Day was designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and is marked in over 100 countries around the globe. Celebrations take place all over the world to recognize the magical power of books – ‘a link between the past and the future, a bridge between generations and across cultures. By championing books and copyright, UNESCO stands up for creativity, diversity and equal access to knowledge…’

* Note: Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same date — 23 April 1616 — but not on the same day as, at the time, Spain used the Gregorian calendar and England used the Julian calendar; Shakespeare actually died 10 days after Cervantes, on 3 May of the Gregorian calendar.

The UK celebrates on 5 March

World Book Day 5 March 2020 (UK)

World Book Day Ltd is a registered charity. Bringing together the UK and Ireland’s bookselling and publishing industries in an extraordinary collaboration.

It is financed mainly from contributing publishers, the sponsorship of National Book Tokens Ltd, some literacy partnerships and other supporters, as well as the participating booksellers who fund the entire cost of the Book Token redemption.

It’s collective decision-making process around the annual campaign, strategy and governance of World Book Day is done via an Executive Committee and a Board of Trustees, both of which are composed of senior representatives from bookselling, publishing, the Booksellers and Publishers Associations, The Reading Agency and an acclaimed author.

The date of the first Thursday in March came about “after serious thought and lengthy discussion to ensure the best decision” for all participants and supporters whilst also “taking into consideration religious holidays, school terms and potential conflict with other charitable activities.” – World Book Day.

World Book Day (UK) illustrations by Rob Biddulph

If you’re in the UK and want to celebrate something bookish on the 23 April World Book Night takes place each year on that date.

Back to World Book Day

World Tales – short story competition

The 2020 theme is: “Once Upon a Time in my Future”. Open to 12 – 18 year olds who live in a member city of ICCAR of UNESCO. All details can be found here: Competition Rules

World Book Capital

It’s slogan: “KL Baca – caring through reading”

Each year, UNESCO and the international organizations representing the three major sectors of the book industry – publishers, booksellers and libraries, select the World Book Capital for a one-year period, effective 23 April each year.

World Book Capital for 2020 is Kuala Lumpur. Their program focuses on four themes: reading in all its forms, development of the book industry infrastructure, inclusiveness and digital accessibility, and empowerment of children through reading.

“A city that reads is a city that cares. In choosing our slogan KL BACA: Caring through Reading, we believe that the best way for people to appreciate and care for other people and for them to care for the environment is to get the people to read. Books empower our soul and make us better human beings. A caring society sustains harmony and protects the environment for future generations.” – KL WBC

Countries wishing to be considered for World Book Capital 2022 have until 25 June 2020 to submit their applications. You’ll find all the details here: Call for applications


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