Thursday, 3 March 2011

World Book Night - the Countdown

So, I have collected my 48 copies of Dissolution by C.J. Sansom from Blackwell's in Oxford and now I have 2 days to finalise my plans for giving them away on Saturday night during the first ever World Book Night. Somehow, 48 books don't seem enough as I have a rather long shortlist of ideas to choose from!

Oxford is an internationally renowned city of learning and academia but what has struck me since moving here is just how much poverty and associated lack of opportunity there is in some parts of the city. It is certainly not all dreaming spires. Oxford is saturated in books, from the wonderful Bodleian Library to all the fantastically stocked local libraries, it would seem that we should be the most literate and well-read city in Britain. However, according to the National Literacy Trust, one in six adults in the UK has a literacy rate that is lower than the level expected of an eleven year old. That means that there are a great many people in Oxford who struggle with literacy. For someone who takes their own literacy for granted, the figure from the National Literacy Trust is shocking. I am not suggesting that handing out 48 books will somehow have any impact upon this issue - but whilst deciding where to hand out my books these thoughts have been at the back of my mind.

I am in the fortunate position to be able to say that books are not a luxury for me. Rather, I view them as a necessity! I don't have to choose between food and books. But for many people, especially in these difficult times, these choices will be made more and more. Public libraries become sacred spaces during economic difficulty - all of us need to save the pennies, some more than others, so a library offers a place in which we can all access any text, for free. As I have already mentioned, many local libraries in Oxfordshire will be forced to close due to funding cuts from the local government. I just want to know, where will people be able to get their books from when they can't afford to buy them? Why is access to the printed word viewed as a luxury? I don't know.

I do know that World Book Night is a fantastic scheme - whilst it is only one night, it is one night during which anyone could end up holding a book that they may never have held otherwise. Whether, it's someone who gets a book that they just would never have chosen or someone who doesn't have the money to spend on books for themselves it doesn't matter. For one night the whole country will become like a library - totally egalitarian as to who takes the books home.

I will keep you posted as to exactly where and when I will be handing the books out. Is anyone else a World Book Night Giver? What are your plans? For the rest of you, are you hoping to bag a freebie?