I cannot express how much of an honor and a privileged it is to be chosen to be a Book Giver for World Book Night. This is the second year I have been able to participate in the program and I have been richly rewarded as a result. I don’t remember how I stumbled upon the program. Perhaps through a Tweet sometime during my first year back in my hometown, as I tried to settle in and find neat new things to do in my new middle school. When I found the WBN site, I did a good bit of reading. After all, I think most of us are distrustful of FREE opportunities these days.
I learned that WBN was a relatively new concept, which began in 2011. I also learned it was going on in the UK, Germany, and the US on April 23 in honor of International Day of the Book, Shakespeare’s birthday, and Cervantes death. I learned a bunch of other stuff you can learn too by going to their website. You should definitely go to their website.
The most exciting thing I learned was that every year they give away some really cool books and all you have to do is fill out an application explaining why you want to do that for them. The goal of WBN is to put books in the hands of people who may have no access or limited access to books, so you want to keep that in mind. Then, if you are lucky, you just might have the honor of calling yourself a World Book Night Book Giver. Books range in interest and reading levels. Book Givers may give books to anyone they choose from students in local schools and colleges to folks hanging out at public transportation spots to, well, anyone. Last year, I handed out twenty copies of Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. This year, my kids thrilled at receiving Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson.
Want to know what thrilled me? Their faces! My first customers of the day were my morning Poptropica maniacs. They have to get in their fix before school, you know? They came in, and I said, “Hey, hold these books like this and let me take your picture.” Yeah, okay. Cutting in on the Poptropica time, but they love me, sort of. I snapped the picture and then asked if they would like to keep the books. You should have seen their shock and delight. Smiles burst forth from their faces and off they went. The rest of the day was very much the same. Students came in and I would “randomly” ask some of them if they would like to have a copy of the book to keep forever, for their very own libraries. Some were dismayed. I’m pretty sure not many people have given them things out of nowhere. I’m even more sure no one has given them books for no apparent reason. Those moments of pleasure and wonder gave me goosebumps and one or twice I admit, I got a little teary eyed. Writing about it is letting me experience it all over again.
So, how do you randomly choose who to give books to? When someone asks me about my school, I say, “Well, we read.” We do. All the time. Everywhere. We give kids “Get Caught Reading” tickets for reading when they don’t have to. They visit the library frequently. We have summer reading events. We value reading. We have also come to understand that it is very hard to value something like reading when you don’t view yourself as a reader. Yes, you might go to the library. You might get a book off your teacher’s shelf. But if you don’t have any books at home, are you a reader? Maybe not. It is all in your perception, and anyone who knows middle schoolers know that perception is a driving force in much of what they do. That is why our school has been trying to get more books in our children’s hands so they can build their home libraries. World Book Night has given me the opportunity to help some of our students build their home library, build their view of themselves as readers, and let them know that I value them enough to want to help them do that.
In 2012, World Book Night Book Givers in the United States handed out half a million books. That’s a lot of books going to a lot of homes, dorm rooms, shelters, and other places that may or may not have libraries. I can’t wait to see the numbers for this year. WBN may very well be a modern day Johnny Appleseed of literacy in our country. Like I said, World Book Night rocks and I am very honored to have participated. Are you interested in having this goose-bumpy experience? Sign up for their newsletters so you don’t miss out next year!
For now, check out Neil Gaiman‘s thoughts on books. He co-authored Good Omens, one of the give-aways this year. And, as you well know, he too rocks. His blog post “It’s a Books! Books! Books! Books! Books! World.” was a nice wrap up to World Book Night for me. If you have time (yes, I recommend you FIND time), you should listen to the speech he includes. I love his dandelion analogy.