Reading Unites Nation for Virtual World Book Night

People across the country join in The Reading Agency’s digital celebration of reading – as authors, poets and actors take part on TV, radio and social media

A nation in lockdown united last week on Shakespeare’s birthday, in celebration of books and reading, for The Reading Agency’s World Book Night. Pivoting to a digital format in light of Covid-19, the virtual celebration took place without the usual accompanying book giveaway – now tentatively scheduled for autumn when 50,000 books will be shared as we keep a nation reading.

The celebrations on 23 April began with the announcement of a recent survey conducted by The Reading Agency, showing a marked increase in reading habits across the nation, including results such as:

· Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) people are reading more during lockdown

· Almost half (45%) of young people (18-24) are reading more than before the lockdown

· 7 in 10 have been reading fiction

Interviews with authors, poets and actors were broadcast and shared online throughout the day, with contributors including Margaret Atwood, Bernardine Evaristo, Maggie O’Farrell, Matt Haig, Kate Mosse, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Isaacs and Owen Teale. Simon Callow filmed a reading of As You Like It, which will remain on the World Book Night website to keep the nation reading beyond the 23 April.

People of all ages and backgrounds joined to celebrate the proven power of reading. Families, reading groups, schools and individuals connected via social media to share their plans for the evening’s main event: the Reading Hour, between 7 – 8pm, which invited everyone to pick up a book, read a chapter by themselves or with family, or simply share their reading experiences with others online through the #ReadingHour hashtag. Libraries across the country, including Brighton & Hove, Paignton, Shetland, Wandsworth and North Tyneside rose to the challenge with hugely impressive virtual campaigns, hosting interactive quizzes, bedtime story readings and interviews throughout the evening. Social media engagement for the virtual celebration included an 117k reach on Facebook, and over 400k impressions across Twitter – with a total social media reach of over 14 million.

The BBC covered the event across the day, beginning with the survey announcement in the morning and continuing with shout-outs and interviews across Radio 1, Radio 4 and 5 Live, a BBC Live page featuring author contributions, and an interview with Sharon D Clarke on Radio 4’s Front Row to welcome in the Reading Hour. Clarke, who said she was currently enjoying Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, read an extract from Bedtime Stories for Stressed out Adults by Lucy Mangan.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency, said: “This year’s World Book Night celebrations provided a really wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the proven power of reading to connect people. This connectivity has never been needed more than at this anxious time of social distancing. Talking about reading and sharing book recommendations on 23 April as part of #ReadingHour bought individuals, friends, families, and communities together to connect a nation in self-isolation. The Reading Agency’s mission of tacking life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading has never felt more meaningful.”

Get involved

Follow the latest developments on social media: @WorldBookNight / @ReadingAgency
#WorldBookNight / #ReadingHour

The Reading Agency

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