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A triumphant World Book Day 2009

9 March 2009

World Book Day 2009 has been a great success. Celebrated in 100 countries around the world, it's especially strong in the UK, so it's worth looking at it to see what can be achieved in having an annual day to promote the book.

This year almost 3,000 UK bookshops took part and almost all public libraries, with events involving a whole host of children's authors. £1 book tokens were given away to children across the country. Last year WBD increased traffic to its site by a whopping 71%.

Michael Rosen, the UK Children's Laureate, used WBD 2009 to highlight the initial success of Just Read, ten-week push to get children in a Cardiff school reading, followed in a BBC series which started on 6 February. Rosen argues that children need to read whole books, not just selected extracts or anthologies, if they are to get the reading habit and find out what enjoyment they can get from books. So far, he is claiming success for his programme. He also said that he had written to government ministers about his 20 point plan, and that the best plan of all for improving literacy was to read whole books (not "torn-up books, otherwise known as worksheets)'.

Outside in launched its new Reading Around the World campaign, with input from an international cast of authors and illustrators from all over the world. Spread the Word

London organisation running creative writing workshops for writers at all stages, with a focus on new writing and live literature, and encouraging innovation and experimentation.

had a very successful poll to find Books to Talk about, which had no less than 8,000 participants and encouraged everyone to think and talk about books.

More frivolously, on the adult side, a survey carried out by World Book Day found that two thirds of people have claimed to have read a book they haven't. The most popular book to have lied about reading is 1984 by George Orwell, with 42% of surveyed people saying they had said they had read it even if they hadn't.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy came second with 31%, and Ulysses by James Joyce was in third place with 25%. When asked why they had lied the main reason was to impress the person they were speaking to. J K Rowling was the most popular author, with 61% of respondents saying that she is the author they really enjoy. 91% of respondents said that they had stayed up late at night to finish reading a book.

The survey also found that people can't bear to throw their books away, with 77% of respondents saying they buy extra bookshelves when they are full.

Finally, the new set of ten Quick Reads seems to have been a great success. Focusing on providing accessible and enjoyable books for emerging adult readers, this programme has already proved that the books can play a major part in helping adults who have difficulties with literacy. Figures show that 12 million adults in the UK struggle with literacy, while, in England alone, 5.2 million adults (aged 16-65 years old) have literacy levels below Level 1 and would be unable to pass an English GCSE.

Data gathered from literacy tutors nationwide shows that the books are having a positive impact on improving the reading levels of adults, with 98% believing the books have been useful in helping their learners' progress, and 76% reporting that more than half their learners go on to read other Quick Reads. A further 62% say that more than half of their learners then go on to read other books.

Given the huge levels of illiteracy around the world, this programme shows a promising way of encouraging adults to read books.

World Book Day 2009

Just Books - Michael Rosen's Guardian article

Spread the Word's Books to Talk about

Bookbrunch Report on Quick Reads survey

Quick Reads