It’s World Book Day on 4th March and for perhaps the first time ever, I’ve had the foresight to prepare something in advance.
The reality is, my life has become suffocatingly busy. Reading never gets the time it deserves. And I owe it a great deal.
When I was growing up, I had few friends, knew too few people who had the same wild imagination as me. When not making up my own games and playing out my own stories, I read books. Lost myself in other worlds. Went on grand adventures far beyond what reality allowed for.
Books were my friends, my entertainment, my teachers and guides. They were the company I needed when I was alone. And they’re still those things today.
When I think about why I became a writer, I always come to the notion that it’s because I want to give to others what books have given me.
And now, in my 30th year on this bizarre little planet, I’m about to release my first proper book.
So I thought it a fitting moment to reflect on the power of books. How they can shape our lives, influence our course, and inspire us to hope and dream.
What Is World Book Day?
World Book Day is all about celebrating books and promoting reading for pleasure. A day designated by UNESCO, it’s celebrated in over 100 countries all over the world.
One of the magical things about World Book Day is the schemes that it offers every child and young person, giving them the chance to get a book of their own. One of the main aims is to inspire a life-long passion for reading in young people, and it does this by working with publishers, schools, charities, bookshops and libraries.
Why Should You Read?
We all learn in different ways. For me, it’s following the examples of others. Some people prefer to learn as they go. But to a lesser and greater extent, we all learn from reading.
Be it warning signs teaching us of dangers ahead, directions to get from A to B, the laws of astronomy or biology, history books chronicling our past, or fiction books that teleport us to new worlds, words convey meanings that stay with us forever.
From them we learn. And what we learn helps us grow not just intellectually but as people too.
Smarter people than me have translated this into proper scientific fact.
What are the scientific benefits of reading?
It’s long been established that those who dedicate more time to pleasure reading benefit in various ways. For example, a study by the Institute for Education found that those who enjoy pleasure reading had a 14.4% greater vocabulary.
Other benefits of reading include:
- Improved concentration. Those who read generally develop higher levels of concentration and focus.
- Strong memory skills. A lot can happen in a book, so being required to remember characters and plots can help boost memory.
- Critical analysis and thinking skills. Some books, like mysteries, will have us guessing and trying to work out the plot. This can help boost our critical thinking.
So we know reading is good for us. How do you find books?
Where Can You Find Books?
When we think of books our minds drift to battered paperbacks with broken spines, wedged together on shelves in need of a dusting.
But it’s 2021 and there are new ways to absorb books.
First to spring to mind are eBooks. Those things some fool said would never catch on. While paperbacks have made a big comeback of late, eBooks remain wildly popular.
And given the growing climate crisis, until the publishing industry catches up with sustainable printing with the likes of recycled paper and hemp, eBooks will be far better for the environment in the long run.
Succeeding eBooks in popularity, however, are audiobooks. With our lives becoming busier, finding ways of cramming in our favourite things is becoming more common.
People are turning to audiobooks and podcasts to get them through the mundanity of washing the dishes, commuting to work and exercising. What can sometimes be unproductive time is transformed into the opposite.
So how do we get these books, eBooks and audiobooks?
Well one of the most obvious places to go is your local library. A quick Google search for ‘library near me’ will point you in the right direction. The great thing about libraries is that if they don’t have a book you want they can order it in for you.
If you want more immediacy, however, eBooks may be more your thing. How can you get books for free, though?
Well, there’s a thing called the Public Domain, and after writers die and copyright licenses lapse, their work falls into the public domain, meaning it’s free and open to everyone.
You can find lots of these books on Amazon and Project Gutenberg. Or you can join my Community of Readers. One of the first emails you’ll receive contains links to scores of free downloads of bestselling books. To join, just click the button below, enter your email below and select ‘free books’.
Audiobooks are also available in both libraries and online. Audible, the largest audiobook platform, gives out free tokens you can use to download audiobooks.
And on YouTube you can find lots of great audiobook publishers producing quality and free content. Here’s a short list of some of my favourites:
Encouraging Others To Read
Knowing how beneficial reading has been to me, I try to encourage as many people to read as possible.
Over the years I’ve tried a few things, which you could try too:
- In the community centre I used to run, I set up a mini-library of free books people could come and read and borrow. It proved a massive hit! If this is something you’d like to do why not get in touch with some local community centres?
- A watered-down version of this but something still immensely fun to do is to have a book box or book swap station. You may have seen them before. Rustic little wooden boxes with glass doors. Inside are shelves of books. People place them outside their homes, on local high streets, train stations or parks, or even in local cafes or shops. The idea is that people can take a book for free. Sometimes they’re asked to leave one in exchange.
- Talk about and share news about books and book deals. For lots of us, reading isn’t on our radar. So it can really help to have people sharing and talking about the books they’re reading. And if you know of any great deals or free books, share the love with those you know. That’s exactly what I do with my Community of Readers.
So there are a few ways we can encourage others to read.
Now, how can we cram in a few extra books each year?
How To Read More Books
I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t read anywhere near as many books as I should.
With my day job as a copy editor, sometimes after 8 hours of reading I’m just fed up of letters and words.
And the free time I do have goes to writing, and lately, marketing. Reading has fallen down the pecking order and it’s starving in the corner.
But I think I’ve found a solution. Audiobooks. We’ve discussed audiobooks already, so there’s only one point I’ll repeat here. And it’s that we can listen to them when we’re doing mindless tasks like washing the dishes or driving to work.
If you’ve not given audiobooks a go before, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. The scientific benefits of listening to audiobooks are clear. According to research published in 2020 by the National Literacy Trust:
- Audiobook sales are rising significantly, with sales rising in the first quarter of 2018 by 28.8%—and that was before the coronavirus pandemic when popularity soared even further.
- Of the 14 million audiobook units sold overall in the UK in 2018/19, 18% related to children’s books.
- With the increased use in smart speakers like Alexa, audiobook popularity has soared by 138%.
- In terms of the benefits, audiobooks can help build comprehension skills. A 2016 study in the US actually found no difference between the outcomes of reading an eBook or listening to an audiobook.
- Audiobooks can help teach pronunciation of words
- They can expand vocabulary and reading comprehension and fluency of language.
Something else you can try is speed reading. I’m a pretty slow reader, so this is an alien and scary concept to me. But it’s a proven way to get through books quicker, and one adopted by many a reader.
Above all, though, reading requires dedication. I know this because I often lack it when it comes to reading books. My interest fizzles and I rarely push myself to go on. Terry Goodkind and Wizard’s First Rule are to thank for that.
But I know I should, so keep on reading and powering through (unless it’s really bad).
The Importance Of Readers
If people didn’t read or didn’t know how to read, would we have evolved to the point we’re at today?
Think of all the great writers whose words have travelled through time, all the way back to Plato.
Words have an eternal quality to them, unless every copy of every book is burned! They carry meanings that can change our lives.
The ability to read, for me therefore, is a precious and beautiful thing. And one filled with purpose. Each time we read a story we keep it alive in hearts and minds.
And for writers, we write for you. We create stories for you to enjoy, escape into, stories that carry meanings and messages and those that inspire hope and belief. If people didn’t read, writing would have much less purpose.
In our modern times, there are huge communities of readers on the likes of Goodreads and Bookbub who are helping to spread the good word of all of the awesome books coming out each week.
The words of these readers not only encourage other people to read, they inspire writers to continue to scribble. It’s a wonderful cycle.
So reading is incredibly important and there are ways you can heighten that importance by leaving reviews of books and recommending them to others.
How To Find A Book Club
One thing you might be interested in is joining a book club. Now don’t be fooled by the stereotypes—book clubs aren’t just full of old middle-class people sipping tea and eating cake (thanks Midsomer Murders). It’s 2021 after all.
There are online book clubs nowadays! And they’re wonderful places to get book recommendations, chat about your favourite reads, and meet some lovely like-minded people.
I’ve included a few links to online book clubs below.
But if you’d rather go for the personable approach, a quick Google search of ‘book clubs near me’ will bring up tonnes of results. You’d be surprised at how many there are.
If you live in a city you’ve got a better chance of finding book clubs dedicated to more niche genres like fantasy, science fiction or crime. And if you can’t find any book clubs in your local area, why not start your own?
Get Involved In World Book Day
World Book Day provides a terrific reminder to appreciate something many of us take for granted. Reading has empowered us all in one way or another, and it’s the books we fall in love with that can help shape our lives.
So to spread the book love and get involved in World Book Day, why not add this badge to your social media profiles?
Post about your favourite books and shout about your favourite authors.
Loan a book to a family, friend or someone who may need it.
And share this post with anyone who might benefit!
Join A Community Of Book Lovers
I mentioned earlier in this guide my Community of Readers. If you’re looking for free books, great book deals and book recommendations, you can find them all here.
Each month I send a newsletter brimming with freebies to keep you going. To get in on the book action, just click the button below.
Want To Write Your Own Book?
If you’re like me, you may get an urge whenever you read. An urge to write your own stories.
Ideas trickle into your mind and as much as you try to ignore them, your focus shifts and the book is forgotten.
It’s a terrible curse, I’m telling you, but one I think we should indulge in.
So pick up that pen and write. If you’re not sure how exactly to go about it—entirely understandable, I was there too—I have the solution.
My Community of Writers is the ideal place to learn. Upon joining you’ll be gifted the tools to learn how to write, be guided through the process, and invited to join an exclusive group of fellow writers, a perfect place to share your writing, get feedback and grow together.
To join, just click the button below.
More Useful Guides
In this final section I’ve included some extra guides you may find useful.
Thanks for reading and Happy World Book Day!