I went to the local hospital today to distribute 24 World Book Night copies of Sophie Kinsella‘s book The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic.
The aim of World Book Night is to encourage people who don’t usually read to pick up a book and get into the reading habit. As writers this is something that we should support – because if there are no readers what’s the point of writing?
I started in the A & E department of the hospital. I explained to the receptionist what I was doing and gave her a book. She was delighted and promised to pass it around her colleagues, adding that they often swapped books. So that was one book given away but unfortunately not to a non-reader. This was a trend that continued for the rest of my ‘giving’ session.
I only approached women (because Sophie Kinsella writes chick-lit) and I avoided people who were actually reading a book as they waited to see a doctor but it is very difficult to tell by a person’s appearance whether or not they are a reader. So inevitably I unknowingly spoke to keen readers and they almost bit my hand off at the offer of a free book. The non-readers I came across were simply not interested in giving the book a try – no matter how much I tried to sell it as a ‘light, easy read’. The exception to this was a lovely, chatty cleaner who was very grateful for the book and said she didn’t normally read but once bought a 48 hardback book set of Agatha Christie novels – they look lovely on her shelf but she’s never opened one of them!
One person turned down the book because she didn’t like Sophie Kinsella and another because she had already read the book. Three people knew about World Book Night and a paramedic told me she’d recently seen a book left on a park bench in a polythene bag, labelled ‘Read Me’.
I enjoyed being a ‘giver’ and intend to apply again next year but I’m not sure that World Book Night is achieving its aims. I’m sure that most of the books must end up with people who are already hooked on reading. It’s very difficult to persuade a complete stranger, who says they’re not interested in reading, to take a book. I got the feeling that some of them thought there was some ulterior motive or catch to it. Similarly, once you discover someone is a reader, it’s awkward to withdraw the offer of a book – plus if I’d restricted myself to non-readers I would have been at the hospital all day trying to find enough of them willing to give reading a try.
How did anyone else get on?
#1 by loutreleaven on April 23, 2012 - 12:11 pm
Well done for trying, Sally. Even if you didn’t quite fulfill the night’s aims you still spread a bit of love and I’m sure people appreciated it!
#2 by Sally Jenkins on April 23, 2012 - 1:02 pm
#3 by susanjanejones on April 23, 2012 - 4:56 pm
Well done Sally. What I did was, gave away a Mills & Boon to a friend, who was going to pass on to a friend, etc, then she said it would end up at a charity shop, so I think I’ve done my miniscule bit.
#4 by Sally Jenkins on April 23, 2012 - 8:04 pm
Doing anything that gets people reading is good, Susan!
#5 by juliathorley on April 24, 2012 - 11:14 am
I gave my copies of ‘Rebecca’ to students in my yoga classes. Some had read it many years ago, but were keen to have a copy. I emphasised that the idea was to read it and pass it on, but I agree that trying to convince non-readers is a tough challenge. Let’s hope there’s plenty of room for comments on the WBN feedback form.
#6 by Sally Jenkins on April 24, 2012 - 12:28 pm
Julia, yes we can feed back our experiences but I don’t know how it could be improved for next year.
#7 by Vikki (The View Outside) on April 24, 2012 - 12:48 pm
Well done Sally 🙂
#8 by Sally Jenkins on April 24, 2012 - 6:10 pm
Thanks, Vikki – and I’m impressed by the range of writing prompts that appear on your blog!
#9 by Vikki (The View Outside) on April 24, 2012 - 8:08 pm
thanks Sally 🙂
#10 by Tracy Fells on April 25, 2012 - 11:54 am
I think you have a valid point about the event Sally in that only readers really want the books. Most of us probably got our reading habits in childhood and perhaps that’s where the campaign should focus. I heard a sad statistic at the London Book Fair that only 1 in 3 London children own a book. My parents couldn’t afford to feed my insatiable need for reading, so I borrowed constantly from local libraries. I believe we need to support and sustain our libraries to encourage reading in children – this must be the way to build more readers. If you’re an adult and a non-reader then I’m not sure what would encourage you to become an avid reader…
#11 by Sally Jenkins on April 25, 2012 - 12:15 pm
That’s a really good point, Tracy. I read avidly as a child and have always used the library. My own children had a story every night & then moved on to reading on their own. But I’ve noticed that since they got to their late teens the reading has diminished & the laptop’s taken over. I hope this is only a temporary phase for them. I too don’t know how you turn an adult into a reader – but it’s in our interest to do that!