April 23, 2014 marked the 450th Anniversary of the birth of the immortal bard, William Shakespeare. In celebration and honor of this historic day, volunteers across the globe, myself included, handed out free books to light and non-readers. World Book Night, the organization behind the book giving, is founded on a mission to “spread the love of reading, person to person.” The goal is that each year, on the night of the birth of the most prolific and celebrated writer in the English language, the passion for reading is shared.
As an avid reader and lover of literature, I felt compelled to be a part of this incredible evening. It all began when Carl Lennertz, Executive Director of World Book Night, came to speak at one of my NYU lectures. As soon as he had spoken of the premise of World Book Night I was hooked. I knew instantly that I had to be a part of this movement to inspire others to discover the joy of literature.
I listened with rapt attention and glistening eyes as Carl spoke of an elderly recipient who had never owned a book prior to her World Book Night book. I couldn’t imagine never having owned a book. It was as if someone had knocked the wind out of me when I heard him say that. I was overwhelmed with emotion and with the conviction to be a giver. Hot tears streamed down my face, and I brushed them away as I walked up to meet the man behind the magical night. I gushed about how touched I was by his speech and about how ardently I hoped to be a giver in 2014.
I got my wish, and was selected as a giver for this year’s historic World Book Night. I anxiously awaited April 23rd, carefully planned where I would distribute my books, and reflected on what I would say to the recipients. Yesterday, I printed flyers, recipient letters, bookmarks, and my name tag to designate me as an official book giver. I chose Front Steps Homeless Shelter to give out copies of the legendary Agatha Christie’s After the Funeral.
I spoke passionately to the residents of the mission of World Book Night, of the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, and of the book I was sharing with them. I listened as they shared their thoughts on Agatha Christie and their excitement about reading her book. Willie is one of the residents that I had the pleasure of meeting and sharing After the Funeral with. He is part of Front Steps’ GED program and is their most enthusiastic student. Willie accepted his book with eyes alight, and an eagerness that was almost tangible. I knew that I was sharing one of my favorite authors with a budding reader who would soon come to love her and many more authors with the earnest passion of a book lover.
Books have the incredible ability to nurture the human spirit. It is my hope that Willie and everyone that I shared books with, who are currently enduring such hardships, will get lost in the pages of Christie’s fiction, be captivated by her charismatic characters, and get wrapped up in the weave of her mystery. As I handed out books, I beamed with joy at the knowledge that I was a part of facilitating Willie’s and the other recipients’ reading journey and hopefully sparking an inextinguishable and lifelong passion for reading.
To be able to share the gift of reading with others is an earnest desire of mine as both a reader and a publishing professional. World Book Night gives volunteers across the world an avenue to channel their passion for books to inspire a new generation of readers. To the authors who waive their royalties, the publishers who fund the printing of special World Book Night editions of the books, the bookstores and libraries that volunteer to host givers, and to the staff at World Book Night–thank you for this glorious opportunity to bring books into the lives of those who have yet to discover how important they will become to them.