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We love books, and our friends at UNESCO agree. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization proposed World Book Day as a day of celebrating the joy of reading for enjoyment.
One hundred countries observe World Book Day, and why not?
Children who regularly read for enjoyment have higher test scores, develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures than their non-reading counterparts. Whether you read traditional paperbound books or turn to your Kindle/iPad/whatever, reading’s a passport to this and many other worlds.
So celebrate with us on April 23! Here’s how to harness your inner bookworm — and maybe get a free book.
When is World Book Day 2021?
The enjoyment of reading books is celebrated on World Book Day on April 23. It’s a day to celebrate the privilege of being able to read, so head to the library or curl up on the couch and just be a bookworm!
History of World Book Day
Reading is a stellar form of entertainment and it requires that you use your imagination rather than simply watching visuals on a screen. There is also something so therapeutic about the actual feel of a book, with its scent of printed pages and glossy covers. Books are a valuable aspect of society but this wasn’t always the case.
When vocabulary and writing were developed thousands of years ago, clay tablets were used. This evolved into parchment and papyrus. The first form of a book was achieved by the Chinese in the 3rd century, although their books consisted of thick pages, made out of bamboo, that were stitched together. By the mid-15th century, the printing press revolutionized books to become what they are today and made them readily accessible for everyone. Thanks to this ingenious invention we are able to enjoy the prose and poetry of countless authors and poets — from Shakespeare and Tolstoy to George R.R. Martin.
World Book Day was established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on April 23, 1995. This date is chosen because it is the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and prominent Spanish chronicler Inca Garcilaso de la Vega.
Prior to this, there were several ideas on when World Book Day should be celebrated. Originally, Valencian writer Vicente Clavel Andrés suggested that the day should be on a day that honored the author Miguel de Cervantes. This meant that it could either be on his birthday, on October 7, or the day he died, on April 23. Because the day he died coincided with the date on which William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega had also died, this date was chosen. Surprisingly, there are several other famous authors who have also died on April 23, like William Wordsworth and David Halberstam.
Around the world, there are many other dates on which World Book Day takes place. The UK, Sweden, and Ireland all celebrate World Book Day on different dates.
World Book Day timeline
The Sumerians engrave their alphabet onto clay tablets.
In China, a book is printed using woodblocks with characters on them.
The Penguin publishing company publishes ten books that go on sale in stores in paperback form.
The reading tablet Kindle is released, storing thousands of books digitally and making them available on the go.
By the Numbers
1,207,937 – the number of reading sessions started on Bookly in the past year.
8.27 – the number of books per person by which book sales fell in 2001.
359,803 – the number of books and e-books added on Bookly between 2019 and 2020.
16,555 – the number of audiobooks added on Bookly between 2019 and 2020.
909,394 – the number of reading sessions started by female users on Bookly between 2019 and 2020.
350,485 – the number of reading sessions started by male users on Bookly between 2019 and 2020.
25–34 – the ages between which the most books are read.
80 million – the number of active users on popular book site Goodreads.
24% – the percentage of American adults who have not read a book in 2018.
6 – the number of books by Dr. Seuss that rank among the top 20 bestselling children’s books of all time.
World Book Day Activities
Dress like a literary character (Jay Gatsby, anyone?)
Keep it fashionable like the Fitzgerald novel. Or go outlandish, wearing robes that invoke the spirit of Tolkien or dresses that are Jane Austen-inspired. Bonus points if you can encourage a group of friends or co-workers to join you!
Support local booksellers
Neighborhood bookstores bring so much to a community! Don't have one where you live? Visit your local library and take out as many books as your arms can hold. Oh, make sure you have a library card first.
Host a book club
The only thing better than reading a fantastic book is talking about it with other people who love it as much as you do. Celebrate World Book Day by hosting a dinner based on your favorite book or series. It doesn’t have to be just adults either. Imagine your child’s excitement at having a dinner based on their favorite storybook. "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle has tons of healthy (and some not-so-healthy) food in it that would make a great dinner.
Or, if you’d prefer, go upscale and create a menu based on foodie fiction like "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café" by Fannie Flagg, or Amy Tan's "The Joy Luck Club."
5 Facts About Reading
Reading is self-care
Reading reduces stress by 68%.
Books are personal
Children who own books are more likely to become regular readers than those who don’t have books at home.
It all adds up
Reading just 20 minutes a day equates to reading 1,800,000 words per year.
It builds fluency
Reading is the best way to build your vocabulary and this is most evident in children.
Libraries are cool!
Kids read 50% more books if they have a mini library in their classroom.
Why We Love World Book Day
Many companies will offer free eBooks to download to your device, so be sure to check out the offers and score as many as you can.
In Spain, it's customary to give books as presents on World Book Day. Kids in the UK receive tokens which they can take to a local bookseller for discounts. Sweden observes World Book Day with writing competitions across schools and colleges.
Hard to believe, but sales of printed books are on the rise in the U.S. — again! Statista reports American bought nearly 700 million in 2018 — the most since 2010.
Read our lips
Studies show reading for pleasure can reduce cortisol levels, better known to most of us as stress. It also improves memory and brain function. Fiction helps readers step into another person’s shoes and makes us more empathetic. Reading also increases attention span and can help you live longer.
World Book Day dates