| April 23, 2011

Sharing Book Love


Barcelona’s way of celebrating World Book Day

Today, April 23, is a special day for book lovers, aspiring readers, and just about anyone else who has ever felt a jolt of excitement after running their fingers down a hard-covered spine or flipping through e-reader pages of their favorite tome.

It’s World Book and Copyright Day, as coined by UNESCO and the United Nations.

Historically, today honors writers Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, who are said to have died on this day in 1616. In Barcelona – where Worldreader is based – the festivities are more romantic. Hundreds of stalls line streets downtown, and women and men traditionally exchange books and roses to mark what they also call Sant Jordi’s Day.

Hovering over the tables, carefully deciding which book may offer the greatest promise, I’m reminded of conversations I’ve had recently with authors who have donated books to our program and Worldreader stories I’ve heard coming out of Ghana.

One thought floats back to something poet Janet Wong mentioned. “There is something to be said about book ownership. When you can take a book home and it’s yours, it really makes a difference.”

Yes, owning a book you love makes a HUGE difference. Having a book to reference – and savor – is empowering. It seeds knowledge and personal reflection.

But, there’s something even more profound than owning a book, as Author Daniel Pinkwater alluded to: It’s being able to choose a book that moves you.

Daniel talked  about a professor he had who never assigned books. “I asked him ‘Why don’t you assign reading like the other teachers?’ He said, ‘What if I assigned a book and it wasn’t the right time for you to read that book? What if you weren’t in the mood, or it didn’t feel right to you? Then you wouldn’t like that book, or you wouldn’t finish it, or you wouldn’t have enjoyed it. That book would be closed to you forever because I assigned it and said you had to read it now.’ ”

Choosing a book when the moment’s right comes full circle to a story Worldreader Director of Research Zev Lowe told us about George, a 16-year-old student in our iREAD pilot program.

George, who opened a phone card stand to pay his way through school, is head over heels for his Kindle. He spends a great deal of time reading at home, at work, alone, and with his friends. Besides scouring the thousands of titles Worldreader has made available to him, he has downloaded free samples of many others that have caught his eye. Like most of us, he has a growing list of books he wants to own and cherish, with titles like 90 Minutes in Heaven, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, and Chariot of the Gods earning his top to-read slots.

Even though George and I live on different continents and have different backgrounds, we have something in common. We share book love. We’re looking for books we’re drawn to, books that will stick with us, and, hopefully, inspire us.

In many ways, this underlines Worldreader’s mission. Going beyond improving literacy globally, we want to nurture the freedom to choose the book that may hold the promise to change our lives. So here’s to Books For All – on World Book Day and on all days.


Worldreader iREAD student George (left) and his friend in George’s phone card kiosk


George (left) and his friend reading away the hours when work slows down