World Book Day provide a quarter of eight to 11-year-olds in the UK with their first opportunity to buy a book of their own, according to an investigation published by the National Literacy Trust.
The poll of 9,000 pupils between eight and 11 found that last year 25% of children had used the £1 book token given away as part of the annual carnival of reading to buy a book for the first time.
Thousands of particularly published £1 World Book Day books are donated by publishers to children and young people each year. After 789,738 World Book Day titles were circulated in 2016, the charity announced it would aim to giveaway 1m books in 2017, with authors including Jacqueline Wilson, Julia Donaldson and David Walliams writing some of this year’s £1 books.
Kirsten Grant, World Book Day director, said the event, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, gave teachers the freedom to challenge the highlighting on literacy skills in primary school pupils and support the enjoyment of reading. “The day is the remedy to the curriculum demands,” the former children’s publisher said, adding: “Teachers are marvelous, but they don’t have any freedom and are under so much anxiety to get through [the curriculum], so anything that makes space for them to do fun things around reading is really important.”
Grant hailed the NLT statistics as proof that World Book Day was tackle high levels of cultural poverty in the UK. In 2016, a poll found that one in 10 people in the UK across all demographics did not own a book. “Evidence suggests that there is a lost generation of readers among today’s adults, but we truly expect and confidently believe that, through giving children and young people greater right to use books, World Book Day is ensuring that the next generations carry a love of reading with them on into adulthood,” she added.
Baroness Gail Rebuck, chair of Penguin Random House UK, who founded the event in 1997, said it had rescued children’s rendezvous with reading from the point of national crisis. “The previous year, a government report had been released showing that 42% of 11-year-olds failed to attain level four in reading and writing on entry to secondary school,” she said. “We wanted to do something to change the position reading and our message is the same today as it was then – that reading is fun, applicable, accessible, exciting, and has the power to transform lives.”
For the first time this year, World Book Day has been comprehensive to all 13 government-run prisons in London, including Belmarsh and Pentonville, with children visiting parents in prison to receive books from Thursday to the weekend. David Kendall, the reading commitment specialist leading the prisons proposal, said that sharing a book with a parent was “hugely important” to a child’s enjoyment of reading, which children with parents in the criminal justice structure had less opportunity to experience. “Being able to work … to make sure books are available to children and parents on World Book Day is fantastic, as it will help all families to feel integrated and show that reading is for everyone,” he said.
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