Perhaps you saw us at the train station, or in your school, or place of work. Maybe you passed us on the busy street corner and never gave us a second look. We were there. Over 25,000 of us spent the day and evening of April 23, 2012 giving out 500,000 books to readers (and non-readers) all across the United States. Why?
We were part of World Book Night USA, 2012.
Haven’t heard of it? I’m not surprised. This is the first World Book Night in the United States, but hopefully not the last.
WBN, according to its Facebook page, is a “charitable initiative designed to spread the joy and love of reading.”
It was started in the United Kingdom in 2011 and quickly gained interest here in the United States. April 23 was picked because it is UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Book Day (as well the date of Shakespeare’s birth and death).
I was lucky enough to hear about it on Facebook. Children’s Book World, in Haverford, PA, which was a book pick-up location for the event, posted a link to WBN a few months ago. When I looked into it further, I knew I would be participating.
The process was simple: review the list of 30 books offered (including Kindred, Enders Games, Little Bee, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Poisonwood Bible and The Stand) and pick your top three choices that you would like to share with others. A few weeks later, WBN emailed you your title, and included a list of locations (mostly bookstores and libraries) in your area where you could pick up your books.
I chose Dave Egger’s book, Zeitoun, which describes the trials and tribulations one man faces after Hurricane Katrina. It is a powerful book that I read a few years ago and still can’t get out of my head.
Each book giver was given 20 paperbacks of their title. Your goal was to get these free books into as many hands as possible, with the hopes of encouraging light or non-readers to get excited about reading.
What an incredible opportunity: giving out free books!
I decided to give my books to The Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs, a part of Project H.O.M.E., in Philadelphia. I was told that the teachers were excited to incorporate the books into their daily lessons.
I know of others who were handing their books out at local colleges, train stations, retirement homes, even car pick-up lines at schools.
Why am I going on and on about this event that is now over and done? Two reasons: First, I want to encourage you to visit the WBN website (www.us.worldbooknight.org) and find out more about this incredible project. (At the very least, you will find their list of 30 inspirational titles and perhaps find a new book to read.)
Second, I have such a love of books that I want to share this passion with others, and encourage you to do the same. While we all can’t afford to buy 20 books and hand them out on a daily basis, we can certainly take a book we have read and loved and give it to someone we think would appreciate it, whether we know them or not.
So next April 23, when someone hands you a book and asks you to read it, or share it with others, take it and thank them, and spread the word.