Week 5/21 – week ending 29 January

World Book Day reveals 2021 programme

World Book Day has revealed its programme for 4 March, including free digital events, online learning opportunities, and a ‘mass participation campaign’.

It intends to tackle book poverty, which has been increased this year due to Covid-19, by providing free books for every child and young person. This year’s authors and illustrators include Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks, Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott, Joseph Coelho and Fiona Lumbers, Jonny Duddle, Zanib Mian and Nasaya Mafaridik, Jess French and Aleesha Nandhra, Sita Brahmachari, Katherine Rundell, Humza Arshad, Henry White and Aleksei Bitskoff, Alexander Bellos and Ben Lyttleton, Derek Landy, Holly Jackson, Judi Curtin and Huw Aaron. The charity is stressing the importance of promoting ‘reading for pleasure as the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success’.

This year’s new initatives include: a digital Share a Story live events programme, featuring writers including Coelho, Duddle and Fletcher along with Jessie Cave; The Authors and Illustrators Academy, a suite of tutorial videos; a Show your Shares mass online participation campaign; online toolkits including activity sheets and discussion guides; and a programme of Share a Story YouTube readings. These are alongside the previously announced digital initiatives, the World Book Day Book Club for 5+ and 9+ audiences, and the Share a Story Corner for early readers.

Cassie Chadderton, World Book Day ceo, said: “World Book Day tackles book poverty and brings the joy of books and shared reading to children and families. Social inequalities – economic and educational – have become more exposed this year, and World Book Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate reading for pleasure, an activity that makes a huge and positive difference to our children’s futures. After all children have experienced this year World Book Day’s mission is more relevant than it has ever been.”

This year’s partners for World Book Day include McDonald’s, Royal Mail and the Beano. Families can redeem their £1 token when collecting essential shopping, or hold onto it to be used later. There is also a single-use digital token, meaning that schools have a lockdown-friendly way to give out tokens to families.

Reading Ahead digital platform launches

The Reading Agency is launching a new digital platform, Reading Ahead, on 1 February, aiming to support adult reading. Seven high profile author ambassadors – Andy McNab, Adele Parks, Dreda
Say Mitchell, Bali Rai, Martina Cole, Peter James and Mahsuda Snaith – are supporting the launch by sharing what they love about reading and recommendations to ‘get people started on their Reading Ahead journey’. Recommendations include Stevie Wonder’s lyrics to Living for the City, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and the graphic novel version by author Ryan North and illustrator Albert Monteys, and the ‘best recipe ever’ for toad in the hole on the BBC website.

The programme aims to use the ‘proven power of reading to tackle life’s big challenges’ by helping less confident readers to build their skills and confidence. It challenges participants to choose six reads and record their thoughts in a reading diary. In 2018-19, more than 30,000 people took part in Reading Ahead, and results showed that participants reported ‘increase confidence and improved skills’. Because of the pandemic, this year’s Reading Ahead takes place through a digital platform, enabling participants to record their reading along with sharing reviews and ratings, and using a reading recommendation tool, Find A Read.

Mitchell said: “The Reading Agency connects with hard-to-reach communities to improve literacy skills and gets people who otherwise might not pick up a book, reading. I am a huge admirer of what the Agency does, so what an honour to be part of such an innovative and ground-breaking initiative that truly makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Debbie Hicks, Creative Director at The Reading Agency, said: “We know that to be a reader is really important to life chances and quality. We also know that reading for pleasure is one of the best ways to build reading skills and confidence which is why Reading Ahead works. We’re therefore delighted to be launching our new Reading Ahead digital platform using the proven power of reading to help tackle poor literacy and build a nation of readers.”

The Reading Agency’s Quick Reads programme supports Reading Ahead, and ambassador Peter James, who wrote a Quick Read in 2014, said: “I’ll never forget having a conversation with a lady who had read The Perfect Murder (Quick Reads, 2014). Before participating in the Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead programme, she had only been able to read children’s books and was too embarrassed to read in public – for example on the bus or in a library. She was so thrilled to have reached a level where she could read books for adults… A love of books is a joy everyone deserves, both for themselves but also so they can set a good example for their children and grandchildren.”

Reading Ahead is also continuing to take part with physical, printed resources, which is particularly important for those who take part in prison. This is supported by Give A Book, who provide free dictionaries for those who take part.