Today, 23 April, marks World Book Night, a national celebration of reading and books which focuses on reaching those who don’t regularly read.
Reading for pleasure is a globally recognised indicator in a huge range of social issues from poverty to mental health. Yet 36% of people in the UK don’t regularly read, while 16% of adults in England and Northern Ireland (that’s around 5.8 million people) score at the lowest level of proficiency in literacy or below.
The Reading Agency, which runs World Book Night, gives out books across the UK, gifting through organisations such as prisons, libraries, colleges, care homes and homeless shelters, as well as individuals who give out their own books within their communities. Penguin Random House UK is supporting the Reading Agency’s efforts by giving away 8,000 books to over 100 charities and organisations across the country for World Book Night this year.
The locations and groups of people the books are reaching vary hugely: from a foster care association in Galway and community learning groups in Dumfries and Galloway, to public libraries and prisons across the country.
One recipient at a secondary school said:
"I will be handing out books to parents and young people at parents evenings and school social events, which has always worked really well in the past. I'm excited about the mental health aspects of many of the book choices this year, as I know that many of our staff, parents and young people are really struggling. Vulnerable young people will also be targeted via various support groups in our local community."
Another recipient at a Young Offenders Institution said:
"As teachers in an adult male prison we see many students come to us with varying levels of literacy and education. One of the main aims in out school is to include everyone in education regardless of their previous experiences. Aside from the literacy benefits, our students can find a positive way to spend their time either using mindfulness activities to combat daily stresses and worries associated with prison life or by getting lost in a world of fiction."
And recipients at a hospital said:
"The psychiatric liaison team look after the mental health needs of people admitted to the general hospital, especially older people who are in hospital for an extended period. Having mental health needs in a hospital can be very challenging for these individuals and being able to have a book to distract them would be fantastic."