World Book Day, the biggest celebration of its kind, was launched in 1995 by UNESCO to honor the authors and illustrators that shape and color our world, and to celebrate the joys of reading. It is an opportunity to kick-start the habit or rekindle an old love for running one’s eyes over endless pages that have the power to transport us to distant lands and wondrous times. Regardless of the kind of books you like the most, the undeniable truth is that the world would not be the same without books. Books have been educating and inspiring us for thousands of years, so it should go without saying that World Book Day is a more than a well-deserved holiday.
This celebration is currently observed in over 100 countries and was originally established on April 23 commemorating the anniversary of the death of the notorious author William Shakespeare. There are also countries where the celebration is held on a different day, Ireland, the UK, and Sweden, for example.
I still remember the first time I was allowed to choose my own book; I was seven years old and I chose The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the recollection of a youngster’s adventures by the beloved Sam Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain). I had never had a book that was all mine (my very own book!), and I left the bookstore in a state of absolute bliss. I read this one book more times than I can remember, until I memorized many of the passages and dialogues. The dictionary became then, another constant book-companion, for I did not fully understand many of the words. I certainly must thank Mr. Twain for sparkling the love I feel for literature!
I believe passionately that it is better to start the habit while being young, and as young as possible (my fascination for words has accompanied me throughout my whole life), but I also believe that it is never too late to start, especially when there are the means and the right motivation. Although the event is largely targeted towards children, it provides us adults with a chance to browse around the nearest local bookstore, or in the case of 2021’s first lockdown trimester, through the catalogue of your preference.
Technologically speaking, we are living one of the most exciting times in terms of availability: different kinds of formats to satisfy different kinds of readers, and to cater to every need: e-books, paperbacks, audiobooks, hard covers, all are there to feed the love for reading, and to help you find exactly what you need regarding prices and devices. You can read virtually anywhere, at any time! Although my love for ‘hard copies’ is deeply rooted, I have to admit e-books have made it easier to access literature, being able to find, buy, and start reading a book basically immediately. What do you think you would enjoy more, the feeling of that ‘one’ copy in your hands, or the voicing of a tale narrated just for you the unseen spectator?
In a world where leisure time is scarce, resorting to audiobooks can be the solution to your dilemma. Listening while you drive, do exercise, or even as you cook dinner, will offer you a window to other worlds while you take care of your well-being or of the family’s next meal. Also looking for time to read without being interrupted (in the case of those who, like me, enjoy the sensation of opening the book like if we were ‘holding a door’ to a different universe) can prove a difficult task. Do you have free time in the mornings before everyone else wakes up? Or maybe during the hours of the evening, as others will be occupied with their own activities? No matter the situation, the ubiquity of books and reading materials make any excuse for not reading a poor one.
This year’s World Book Day will be a pandemic one, as we wade through all we have learnt over the last dozen months. With most schools still closed, and families spending most of their time at home, books represent, more than ever, the opportunity to stimulate our imagination and inspire hope.
Reading for pleasure and personal enrichment would be the most desirable goals when we talk about encouraging younger generations to read as much as possible, and with that provoking a positive impact on their future lives. World Book Day for the youngest in our families can also be a day for dressing up, giving them the chance to live the fantasy of being Peter Pan, The Cat in the Hat, or any other endearing book character. It is not a day about ‘fancy dress’, costumes can be as simple as anything you can put together in less than 30 minutes with the help of paper, crayons, and some glue, or maybe throwing together a World Book Day outfit in minutes using old clothes you can get from the attic or from the deepest part of the wardrobe. Strange days and stranger things I agree, but most of all, the fact of having to ‘make’, instead of buying, will add moments of creativity and mirth for kids as well as for parents. Do you (or your children) enjoy dressing up? If so, what character from literature would you choose to be?
This year’s World book Day theme is ‘share a story’, which is something most of us love doing. Who does not love a good story? This can be made by getting grandparents or other family members to read stories over a video call; setting aside a family reading time when everyone at home is able to relax and enjoy reading their own books or magazines; ‘building’ a cozy reading nook with cushions and sheets draped over in a corner, or even mulling over a story or chapter and then acting it out together. Possibilities are endless, and oh how fun it will be.
Of course books have a language of their own. For those using it as a learning tool, let’s recognize, it can be a bit frustrating at the beginning if you don’t choose wisely: it would be a good idea to look for books that challenge your level, without being too overwhelming; but I promise, once you get started, the thrills and spills will help you enjoy the book (or books) you are aiming to finish, and add to the learning experience with vocabulary and idiomatic expressions that will spice things up and make you savor every line even more! Do you have any particular motivation in wanting to pick up a book, or retaking the habit of reading?
It has been proven that people who regularly read for enjoyment have higher performance scores at school and at work, develop a broader vocabulary, increase their general knowledge, and have a better understanding of other cultures than those who are yet to jump on the wagon.
Also, studies have shown that staying mentally stimulated can slow the progress of (or possibly even prevent) Alzheimer’s and Dementia, since keeping your brain active and engaged in different creative and recreational activities prevents it from losing power. Just like any other muscle in the body, the brain requires exercise to keep it strong and healthy, so the phrase “use it or lose it” is quite apt when it comes to your mind. Reading keeps your brain fit!
Do you need any other reason to make everyday World Book Day starting today?