February 15, 2019

Did you celebrate International Book Giving Day or Valentine’s Day on 14th February?

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It was impossible to miss Valentine’s Day yesterday, that most romantic of occasions designed to pressure couples into purchasing over-priced gifts and appearing unrealistically loved-up. But did you know it was also International Book Giving Day?

“What is international Book Giving day?” I hear you ask. Good question.

Launched in 2012, it encourages individuals and communities in over 44 countries to leave books in public places for children to discover and take home with them. It is led by Emma Perry, founder of My Book Corner, a recommendation site for children’s titles, and is a volunteer initiative.  The International Book Giving Day website explains the concept:

Book fairy?

Book ninja?

Call it what you will, but, stealthily leaving books out in the wild for little people to find is hands down my favourite way of gifting books on 14th February.

Here’s how it works in four easy steps:

1. Gather your pile of books together.

2. Print out your bookmarks, or bookplates and tuck them into your books.

3. Attach a clear label with the words, ‘Take Me Home’ or ‘This Book Is For You’—experience has taught me that people don’t expect to be given things for free! Make your #BookGivingDay intentions clear.

4. Now … where to leave your books? Dot them along the school route, place them in Doctor/Dentist/ hospital waiting rooms, hide them at the bottom of slides/swings/climbing frames/benches in popular parks. Add them to the windscreens of cars where families often park.

My children love popping back later to see who has picked them up & how many have been found. It creates smiles all round.

https://twitter.com/MsZoeArmstrong/status/1095984109237747712

The National Literacy Trust, a British-based organisation that supports schools, establishes literacy projects, undertakes research and lobbies politicians and parents to make reading a priority, supported the day. According to The Bookseller’s Mark Chandler, the Trust donated its 100,000th free book to children in celebration, with pupils at Peter Hills Primary School in Rotherhithe, south east London, the latest to get hold of a book donation.

So why this need for an International Book Giving Day? According to the National Trust, one disadvantaged child in eight does not have a book of their own at home. And in the UK’s poorest communities, one person in three has literacy problems. This means that one child in three leaves primary school unable to read to the level expected. Cressida Cowell, author of How to Train Your Dragon, is an Ambassador for the National Literacy Trust and explains in the Independent why encouraging children to read and supporting libraries is so important:

I know that study after study has shown over the years that one of the two key factors in a kid’s later economic and educational success is reading for PLEASURE.

If your parents can’t afford to buy books, and there is no public library to borrow them from, and your primary school hasn’t got a school library, how on earth are you supposed to become a reader for pleasure when you have no access to books whatsoever?

Eleanor Busby wrote for the Independent last month that in the past eight years, libraries, museums, and art galleries across England have had their funding slashed by nearly £400m, and in the last year alone almost 130 public libraries have closed. So forget about the flowers and chocolates—celebrate International Book Giving Day on February 14 from here on in, because it could actually make a difference to a child’s life (and maybe to yours too).

 

 

 

Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.

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