World Book Night

You could call us all kinds of things. And some do. But of all the things we do, the film making, the finding the work you love, the planning the future of your place or organisation, even to Sarah’s work as an independent funeral celebrant, we think the little phrase that sums us up best is that we are ‘story tellers.’ We tell the stories of what people have done and what they want to do.World Book Night

So we’re delighted that Sarah has been selected as a World Book Night 2013 Giver. Here’s how the World Book Night charity describes itself:

“World Book Night is a charity dedicated to the promotion of literacy and the celebration, sharing and enjoyment of reading amongst teenagers and adults. The first World Book Night was held in the UK in 2011. In 2012 World Book Night was celebrated in the UK, Ireland, Germany and the USA on April 23 and saw tens of thousands of givers share the joy and love of reading with millions of people who don’t regularly read.”

World Book Night is on April 23 again this year and there will be events publicised nearer the date where many of the books will be given away. Because that’s what happens. Lots of authors have waived their royalties and lots of publishers have printed special runs of books. So they can be given away to people who don’t regularly read books. In the belief that reading is generally good for you. That books are good for you. Because a good book might entertain and inform you. And it just might help you change your life. Who knows the power of a good story well told?

” I love this idea. There’s something primeval about it: to think of my story being passed on from one person to another makes me feel a connection with the earliest storytellers in their caves, or crouching around a fire on the dark savannah. The relationship between the storyteller, the story, and the audience is an ancient one that long predates things like bestseller lists and royalty statements, or even money itself. It’s really a form of enchantment. The gift idea is just as old and just as potent, and to see them combined in this brilliant and simple way is a delight. I’m very privileged to be part of it.”

Philip Pullman

whybehappywhenyoucouldbenormalSarah’s picked a brilliant story for the book she’ll be giving away. I reviewed it a while back. It’s Jeanette Winterson’s memoir ‘Why be happy when you could be normal?’

The book is the story of Jeanette being adopted and growing up in Accrington. Later we hear her grown up stories, including the one of her search for her birth mother in Manchester. But back in the hills of Accrington we hear what was literally the spark that got her started with writing her own books, after her adoptive mother has discovered her secret stash of books under her mattress, and has thrown them all out of the window and set fire to them:

“The books had gone, but they were objects; what they held could not be so easily destroyed. What they held was already inside me, and together we would get away.

And standing over the smouldering pile of paper and type, still warm the next cold morning, I understood that there was something else I could do.

‘Fuck it,’ I thought, ‘I can write my own.”

So Sarah will be giving 20 copies of this splendid book away on World Book Night.

Where will this happen? Well, we don’t know yet. We might join in with an event in Liverpool that others are organising. Or we might organise one of our own. We’d be happy to share ideas with you if you’re involved in World Book Night too.

Because all over the country 20,000 volunteers like Sarah will be finding creative ways to get their books to people who might not otherwise go looking for them.

“World Book Night is a celebration of reading and books which sees tens of thousands of passionate volunteers gift specially chosen and printed WBN books in their communities to share their love of reading.

Each year we recruit 20,000 volunteers to hand out 20 copies of their favourite book from our list to members of their community who don’t regularly read.  By enlisting thousands of passionate book lovers around the country World Book Night reaches out to the millions of people in the UK who have yet to fall in love with reading in the hope that we can start them on their reading journey. In addition World Book Night distributes half a million books directly to the hardest to reach potential readers in prisons, care homes, hospitals, sheltered, supported and social housing, the homeless and through partner charities working throughout the UK. World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading in those who don’t regularly do so.  But it is also about more than that: it’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways, through the sharing of stories.”

Because that’s what we do. This ‘sharing of stories.’ We are story tellers.

Here’s a story from one of last year’s volunteer Givers, Sara Nathan:

small_island_medium“Maybe the best story was about the book I didn’t give away. I asked Rani if she would like a copy of Small Island; would she promise to read it if I gave her one. “No” she said, “I’m 57 and I can’t read nor write, I can’t take your book” She wants to learn so much, she says, but how do you find out about where you can learn to read if you can’t read? When she goes to the hospital or the bank, she says she has forgotten her glasses so other people fill in the forms for her. She told me she can’t use trains as she can’t read the stations. Her life is truly impoverished by her inability to read. So, we have made a pact. I have her phone numbers. I will find her a local literacy scheme, get her on it and next year, she will take a World Book Night book  – and read it for herself.”

Last word for now from Sarah’s chosen story teller, Jeanette Winterson:

“The Accrington Public Library…held all the Eng lit classics, and quite a few surprises like Gertrude Stein. I had no idea of what to read or in what order, so I just started alphabetically. Thank God her last name was Austen…”

I’ll be back with more details closer to World Book Night on April 23rd. But please do get in touch if you’re also involved in some way and might like us to do something together.

6 thoughts on “World Book Night

  1. Fiona

    Yessss!! Let’s do something together, folks. I’m organising a ‘guerilla’ book swap for World Book Day/ In Other Words, and one of my printers is sponsoring the printing of a few thousand bookplates, so people can stick ’em in a book and leave it somewhere to be found. It’ll be called ‘Spread the love’. Will no doubt do some social media around it, so people can reveal where they’ve left books, or what they’ve found. But I’m sure it’ll have a hefty dose of old fashioned serendipity to it, too…

    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      OK Fiona,let’s see what’s possible. Our big condition is we’ve got to see these books into the hands of people who might not otherwise pick them up. So no reading groups looking for a free supply for example. So let’s get creating!

  2. cheethamlib

    Yes ! What a magnificent idea …. and what about putting a note about how to go about joining a public library inside the books that are to be given away ? Is World Book Day run in association with the Library Association ? There is sure to be a generic leaflet describing how easy and how ‘cheap’ it is to join.Remember Jeanette Winterson’s experience.

    So good that Sarah is to be involved in this timely event.

    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hi Mandy, Doesn’t look like it involves the Library Association. Here’s a list of their sponsors. Having said that, Sarah will be picking up her supply of the books from News From Nowhere, our local independent bookshop. So there are more partners involved than the list shows.

      I seem to remember when they were getting this idea of giving books away going, a few years ago, they picked one book ‘Small Island,’ and libraries were giving it away. But of course that’s not reaching new readers is it?

      So our challenge now is to find people who wouldn’t habitually go looking for Jeanette Winterson’s book and convince them they’ like to read it. Ideas?

      And I like the idea about putting a note in each book about how to join the local library. If there’s still one for them to go to for much longer.


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