Thursday, March 01, 2007

World Book Day

During my time at Ottakar's we were encouraged to do events on World Book Day and there would always be a shop that managed to get a picture in The Bookseller of a member of staff dressed as Charles Dickens or someone sitting in a window reading a book (which always seemed like a way of not doing any work). A week or two later, at the Ottakar's annual managers' meeting, that shop would invariably win an award.

I could never quite see the point of doing 'in-store' activities on World Book Day as the only people around seemed to be pensioners, the mentally ill and a few harrassed-looking mothers of small children. Why didn't we have WBD on a Saturday?

Then, one year, I decided to take the mountain to Mohammed and set up a stall at a local school. It was a revelation. Seeing children, some of whom had never bought a book before, clutching their free £1 vouchers and looking genuinely excited made me realise how important World Book Day is. Yes, it is an opportunity for bookshops and publishers to increase sales and the vouchers are a useful way of driving footfall through the shop, but the most important thing that we can do - if we really do care about reading - is to get out there and make a difference. It's no good just preaching to the converted.

(So what am I doing today? Sitting on my backside at home, of course)

Sadly, not everyone gets the point of World Book Day. Some parents try to use their children's vouchers to buy books for themselves and one charming lady with Elizabeth Duke hoop earrings tried to buy an £18 cookery book with 18 WBD vouchers. I have told staff that they mustn't accept the vouchers for grown-up books (unless a particularly precocious child wants to stretch themselves with War and Peace!)


Poplar Reader said...

Hooray for World Book Day!

I've added your excellent blog to the list of sites worth reading on my own... Fame!

gervase_fen said...

One of beneficial side-effects of acquisition has been the sudden devotion to barcodes to redeem special offers - which means that there's no way now that the till can scan through 18 WBD vouchers on one title. The downside is trying to work out how to put through redeemed vouchers en masse from an event at a local school.

Scott Hughes said...

Happy World Book Day! 1984 made the list, so that's good because it's my favorite book. Anyway, you belong on the Book & Reading Forums.

Ms Baroque said...

My favourite World Book Day experience was the year my daughter went as Violet Baudelaire. Her oldest friend, a boy, went as Klaus Baudelaire (we didn't have a baby for them to use). That was the year the school seemed to get it together the best: the playground was aswarm with characters of all kinds, including some extremely thorough pirates, and very inpiring and cocklewarming it was too.

Personally I think World Book Day would be just as salutary for many adults as for their hapless kids. How about a book stall set up in the canteen of a large company, or in the foyer of some large council office? Might just give some of the workers something to live for.

Steerforth said...

The WBD campaign for adults - Quick Reads - is largely a failure, but nobody in publishing will acknowledge it because it's a good idea.

If I was a dictator, I'd give everyone a day off work (except booksellers) and a £10 book token - only valid on World Book Day.