A Day of Celebration for Bibliophiles and Bookworms
UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day is celebrated in more than 100 countries today. Employees at Penguin Random House in Britain, Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial in Spain, and Verlagsgruppe Random House and DK in Germany are also joining in with special campaigns and events. Inspired by Catalonia's St. Jordi Day, UNESCO declared Apr 23 as World Book Day in 1995.
The world is celebrating the book – and Bertelsmann publishers are doing their part to make the celebration a success. Today is the 23rd UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day in more than 100 countries. Employees from Penguin Random House in the U.K., Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial in Spain, and Verlagsgruppe Random House and DK in Germany are also hosting specials and events to mark the day.
Inspired by Catalonia's St. Jordi Day, UNESCO had declared Apr 23 – which is also the anniversary of the death of the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes and of William Shakespeare – World Book Day in 1995. Since then, various activities and campaigns have been organized worldwide on this day to celebrate and promote the joy of reading.
Germany: CBJ Gives the Gift of Stories
In Germany, World Book Day is inextricably linked with the Verlagsgruppe Random House children’s and youth imprint CBJ, which has published, together with Stiftung Lesen, the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, Deutsche Post, and ZDF, a new title in the “Ich schenk dir eine Geschichte” (My Gift to You: A Story) book series every year since 1996 to mark the day. All fourth- and fifth-grade children in Germany are given the opportunity to receive this book as a gift from their schools or bookstores. About a million schoolchildren take up the offer every year.
“Promoting reading is more important than ever,” says Susanne Krebs, head of CBJ. “Reading makes children strong. It not only increases the educational and development opportunities in our society; it opens up new worlds, inspires imagination and empathy and – what could be more important – deepens our understanding of ourselves and others.”
“Lenny, Melina und die Sache mit dem Skateboard” (Lenny, Melina and the Matter of the Skateboard) is the title of this year's book published by CBJ as part of the “My Gift to You: A Story” World Book Day special. It was written by children's author Sabine Zett, whose books are all published by Verlagsgruppe Random House. “Lenny, Melina und die Sache mit dem Skateboard” is about school, friendship, first feelings, family, prejudices, courage, and understanding for others. Illustrator Timo Grubing has supplemented the book with a 32-page graphic novel, making it suitable for use in integration and support classes as well. Until May 11, fourth- and fifth-grade school children, and children from integration, special education and welcome classes, can receive the book by presenting a gift certificate in one of the 3,500 participating bookstores.
There was an opportunity to meet Sabine Zett and Timo Grubing personally this morning, when CBJ hosted an event at its publishing building on Neumarkter Strasse in Munich as part of the “Visit Publishers” program, a joint project with the state chapters of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association. After Sabine Zett had read from her book and Timo Grubing gave a live drawing demonstration, there was a short guided tour through the building, during which several of the children's and youth book publisher’s departments introduced themselves.
Germany: Open House at DK
As well as CBJ, DK Germany also opened its doors to mark World Book Day as part of the “Visit Publishers” campaign. On Friday, DK hosted an open house in Munich, and prepared a colorful program for the occasion, from mixing smoothies with the assistance of a DK nutritionist to guided tours through the publishing house and conversations about how a book is made. Other fun activities included Lego books and play corners, as well as origami for young and old, and the presentation of the children's nonfiction book series “Memo.”
Britain: Turning Night into ‘Day’
Unlike the rest of the world, the United Kingdom celebrated World Book Day on Mar 1. Nevertheless, the British are still taking part in today's World Book Day, turning night into “day” again by hosting their traditional “World Book Night” this evening. On this occasion, books are given away throughout the U.K. – they donated to libraries and universities, to hospitals and prisons. Penguin Random House UK is participating in the campaign again as well, and is donating more than 8,000 books to various institutions this year.
In the run-up to World Book Night, the Reading Agency, which organizes the event, had selected ten book titles to be distributed free of charge throughout the country. Eight of the ten titles are published by Penguin Random House UK publishers, including Emma Healey's bestseller “Elizabeth is Missing,” Susan Hill's ghost story “The Woman In Black,” and Kit de Waal's “My Name Is Leon”.
An in-house campaign also called on Penguin Random House UK employees themselves to give one of their favorite books as a gift to someone who rarely reads. Staff can also become socially involved and distribute books to the homeless in the vicinity of the publishing group’s offices. A book club is also being held in a homeless shelter in central London.
To mark World Book Day on Mar 1, more than 500 employees from the British publishing group had volunteered to read aloud in schools, libraries and children’s centers across London. DK in Britain was represented on the list of books given to children on World Book Day for the first time, with “Marvel Avengers - The Greatest Heroes.”
Spain: From Cervantes Prize to Autograph Sessions and Book Donations
In Spain, World Book Day has a very special tradition, for this – or more precisely Catalonia – is where the roots of the reading festival lie. On Apr 23, people here celebrate Sant Jordi Day by giving each other books and roses. In the Intercultural Calendar, Bertelsmann employees from Spain explain the significance of Sant Jordi for Catalonians and where this tradition comes from.
For the Spanish-language publishing group Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, today's World Book Day is also a big event – not least because this year’s prestigious Cervantes Prize went to its author Sergio Ramírez. The award ceremony takes place today at the Universidad de Alcalá.
Britain isn’t the only place with a World Book Night – a “Noche de los Libros” is also held annually in Spain. Friday evening’s event in Madrid offered a colorful program that included readings, discussion panels and music. Sergio Ramírez, winner of the Cervantes Prize, spoke to Juan Manuel Bonet, Director of the Instituto Cervantes. Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial organized numerous “Noche de los Libros” events with other authors as well, including Juan José Millas, Antonio Mercero, Jorge Ruiz, and Mercedes Ron.
The publishing group also had various author events lined up in Catalonia. On Saturday, the focus was on increasingly taking the book festival to smaller towns around Barcelona in the form of book-signing sessions. Participating authors included Empar Fernández, Lola Vendetta, Maria Hesse and Núria Pradas. Today, of course, the reading festival takes place directly in St Jordi’s city of Barcelona. All day long, people can meet a total of 70 authors from the publishing group during autograph sessions. Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial is also hosting its traditional lunch party today, to which numerous authors are invited.
As a sign of its social responsibility, the Spanish Bertelsmann publishing group is organizing a round-table discussion in Barcelona with author Miriam Hatibi. Among the 50 guests are young people from the Obert Rialles Center who are at risk of social exclusion, women who have been victims of abuse and have sought help in the Horta-Guinardó Community Center, and families supported by the Paidos Center in Barcelona. There will be games and activities for the children, such as arts and crafts, group games, and reading groups.
Last but not least, Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial has donated 100 books to each of the 71 prisons in Spain, including children's books to institutions where mothers live with their children.