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World Book Day is a Phenomenon -- a look back at the 2016 campaign

World Book Day 2016

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By Emma House, Director of Publisher Relations    


“World Book Day is a phenomenon”. So exclaimed Sara Cox on BBC Radio 2 on World Book Day (3rd March  2016), and her comment was timely: this year’s WBD surpassed all others. As the joint BA/PA initiative is about to embark on its 20thanniversary, we reflect on the successes of the 19th WBD, which saw a Guinness World Record being broken (11,828 people broke the record for the most people taking part in simultaneous literature quizzes in multiple venues), an increase of 38% in the number of tweets to 450,000, 1 million £1 Book Tokens redeemed, 789,738 £1 books sold, and  over £400,000 raised for charity.  Partnerships this year saw Royal Mail, Twitter, Hobbycraft, Nickleodeon, Immediate Media, CenterParcs, Specsavers and Merlin help WBD reach a further 14.6 million children and adults.


The   purpose of World Book Day is often set aside in the scramble to find a   suitable dressing up outfit, and for schools who are taking part in “yet another reading campaign”. But in the UK and Ireland, this is arguably the biggest nationwide celebration of reading in schools, reflected in the way the industry comes together and schools, bookshops, libraries,   parents and kids can all be involved with every child being given a £1 WBD Book Token. Our objectives are simple – we want to provide every child with access to a free book, and to promote and encourage reading for pleasure. A sign of the importance of reading for pleasure is that publishers, authors, illustrators, booksellers and librarians work together to harness the passion of those working in the book industry to support World Book Day which, in turn, gives schools and parents the framework to help their children learn to love reading.

 The 2016 campaign saw an enhancement of activities which have been initiated over the past few years to help to connect authors and illustrators with their audiences. The Biggest Book Show on Earth live tour took 51 authors to 10 major venues, appearing in 17 shows for over 16,500 children. Teens didn’t miss out with the #wbdteenfest taking part over 2 nights of multi-platform chat, quizzes, competitions and exclusive author content.

 James Patterson came on board once again, working with library furniture company BookSpace for the first time to sponsor WoBoD – the WBD Award that celebrates the work that schools do for reading for pleasure, with life-changing prizes of up £10,000 of books for the winning school’s library, plus a £10,0000 library makeover. Of the 89,000 individuals who entered and won the £1 Book Token ‘Golden Ticket’ competition based around Cressida Cowell’s bestselling How to Train Your Dragon series,  253 lucky winners throughout March won family trips to Legoland, signed books and goodies.

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World  Book Day has gone from strength to strength, and as well as meeting the objectives of getting kids into bookshops, showing them the joy of reading, and giving them ownership of their reading, the benefits of World Book Day to reading charities cannot be unsaid - both Readathon and Book Aid International benefited greatly from the fundraising activities. And, for the book trade, in the week of World Book Day the UK Children’s market increased by £1.4 million on the previous week (up 24.7% on the previous week and an increase of £324,423 on 2015). The total consumer market increased by 10.7% (2016 Vs 2015) from w/e 21 Feb-w/e 21 March, and, interestingly, the adult market increased by an incredible £2.4 million Vs 2015.

As we look ahead to the 20th anniversary celebration in 2017, we should remember that the UK still has a literacy problem. There is a fantastic range of programmes, initiatives and promotions which are working hard to tackle and overcome the challenges we face in the UK, but without a doubt, World Book Day is something we can be proud of, a day that brings everyone of all ages together in a massive nationwide shout-out for books, and a day that for many kids will be the start of a lifelong journey to becoming a reader. Find out more about World Book Day and sign up to the monthly newsletter at

 NB:Become a Reading Ambassador – spread the word about the importance of World Book Day and encourage parents to take their children to a bookshop to spend their £1 Book Token, either on one of the ten specially produced £1 books, or to get a £1 off a book of their choice. Sign up here to be a Reading Ambassador and to receive regular news about WBD and other reading programmes as well as top tips on how to spread the love of reading.