Are books relevant anymore in our digital age? Can the publishing industry survive when the reading habit has become a thing of the past? Who wants to read a book when you have all the information and entertainment resources available at your fingertip on a smartphone?
The answers to these and similar critical questions can be found in the UNESCO-sponsored World Book Day (WBD), which is observed every year on 23 April. On the one hand, World Book Day pays tributes to great literary figures such as William Shakespeare (the day of his birth and also death) and Miguel de Cervantes of Spain who died on the same date. It is also a day to celebrate the joy of reading.
It is a celebration of everything related to books — authors, illustrators, technicians, publishers, printers, distributors, teachers, librarians, and above all readers, especially children. In some countries, on this day, children of all ages come together to celebrate reading. They also dress up in their favourite literary characters. World Book Day also aims at encouraging more children to discover the joy and benefits of reading by providing them with the opportunity to have their own books. Above all, it tells children that reading is fun, and that it makes a huge difference to their future success.
World Book Day also encourages parents to read with their children, talk about what they read and suggest reading materials to them. Spending some ten minutes a day reading with their children, can make a huge difference to their lives. According to the Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, “Books have the unique ability both to entertain and to teach. They are at once a means of exploring realms beyond our personal experience through exposure to different authors, and cultures, and is a means of accessing the deepest recesses of our inner selves.”
Amidst Covid-19, most of the schools and colleges around the world had remained closed for 2020 World Book Day. The same is more or less the situation this year. Theatres, clubs, beaches, sports fields and places of worship too remain closed in good part of the world even now. In such a scenario, World Book Day gains greater relevance and importance. When people remain mostly indoors and spend their time in isolation, books can be the best companions to befriend, inspire, entertain, enlighten, console and comfort us. A good book in hand can guard us from many a lonely moment and depressive thoughts. It can uplift us in times of trial and sickness. It can inspire and guide us to be more creative, as well.