Today is March 4 – a day recognised by children across the country as World Book Day; distinguished by fancy dress and fun activities. However, due to the pandemic, kids are discovering that this year’s festivities are considerably different.
At a time when the educational system has faced unprecedented disruption, child literacy is more important a topic than ever. The event, organised by UNESCO, has adapted to make sure that the powerful message regarding books and reading reaches kids – even in lockdown.
Access to books continues to be a problem, particularly for children from low-income families. In the context of COVID-19, 40% of primary-level children were unable to take books home – this highlights the need for World Book Day at this critical point in time.
World Book Day was created by UNESCO on 23rd April 1995 as a worldwide celebration of authors and reading; the ultimate goal has always been to ensure that every child has access to books.
The first World Book Day in the UK and Ireland took place in 1998 and was launched by Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Globe Theatre in London. Schoolchildren were encouraged to dress as their favourite book character and were given a special £1 World Book Day Book Token (€1.50 in Ireland) which could be redeemed against any book in any UK bookshop.
In 2020, the organisation gifted 1.03 million £1 books in the UK & Ireland, encouraged at least 25,000,000 minutes of shared reading and 66% of primary schools agreed that the event has had a positive impact on overall reading habits. Best of all, 3 in 10 of children receiving free school meals said the book they ‘bought’ with their World Book Day book token was the first book they had of their own.
Although children have been given access to the discount tokens that have become synonymous with the date, 2021’s events have been held solely in cyberspace. During the pandemic, many children and parents embraced reading with huge benefits for their wellbeing and development.
Due to this large uptake in reading, organisers have predicted that today’s festivities will be the biggest on record. A pre-event on Wednesday saw a record 20,000 children take part online – 20 times the attendance of any single World Book Day event from previous years.
The midweek event, hosted by the south London rapper and lyricist Kenny Baraka was entitled; “Books That Make You LOL”. This was “liked” by 112,690 young people and is still available to watch on Youtube.
The online event has also been marketed by the appearance of digitally activated, literary themed postboxes across the country. Located in London, Cardiff, Sheffield, Belfast and Oban – Royal Mail have selected each postbox for their significance to either a famous writer or book. The aim is to celebrate authors who have worked to reach children during the pandemic.
Each postbox features a QR code that directs visitors to the author’s services, such as YouTube channels that offer free book readings.
We are hoping that this initiative will raise awareness of some of the great work children’s authors are doing to keep literature relevant in these challenging times. Its power to inspire and offer a wonderful form of escapism has never been greater.
– Mark Street, Head of campaigns at Royal Mail
The ways in which World Book Day has used digital material to connect with its fragmented audience during lockdown is nothing short of impressive. The lockdown is forcing organisations to champion new methods of digital communication – channels we have explored as a marketing agency operating throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
Cordis can maximise your brand’s audience by employing our broad creative skillset. With expertise in social media, design, events and videography – instil your organisation with creativity and professionalism today.