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?