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Cassie Chadderton – Chief Executive of World Book Day – discusses the history of the charity, its mission and future licensing plans for the brand.
Cassie, thanks for making time. First of all, can you remind us of the history, background and purpose behind World Book Day?
World Book Day was first created by UNESCO in 1995 as a worldwide celebration of books and reading. The first World Book Day in the UK and Ireland took place in 1997, a collaboration between publishing and bookselling, with the aim to change lives through a love of books and reading.
Our charity’s purpose is the same now as it was then. We’re here to encourage and support all children to benefit from a life-long habit of reading for pleasure. We know reading for pleasure makes a huge impact on a child’s future success – more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income… But fewer children are choosing to read.
In the UK, 500,000 children don’t have a book of their own and fewer than three in 10 children and young people say they read daily. Reading for pleasure is at its lowest level since 2005, particularly amongst those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
We know World Book Day makes a difference, because children who take part in a World Book Day event are more likely to read books, and to enjoy reading.
“We’re here to encourage and support all children to benefit from a life-long habit of reading for pleasure.”
Absolutely. Can you give us some insight into how World Book Day works outside the UK and where it runs?
The day is marked across the globe in over 100 countries, as World Book and Copyright Day, usually on April 23rd. While it’s always a celebration to promote the enjoyment of books and reading, no other country has a charity like World Book Day, or the same focus on encouraging children to read for pleasure.
World Book Day is a very recognisable and trusted brand – and I know you are looking at developing more licensing activity around World Book Day, and maybe beyond it. What do you have in mind?
The words ‘World Book Day’ are our charity’s trademark – and World Book Day creates a popular, celebratory moment with huge recognition value. It all works to encourage more children from across the UK and Ireland to experience the life-changing benefits of reading. We would love to hear from commercial companies who want to work alongside us to create long-term partnerships with our charity.
We have recently hired Maya Maraj as our Commercial Partnerships manager. She will work proactively to reach and engage those who would like to join the World Book Day celebrations. Maya has over 30 years of experience across publishing and licensing industries and brings a wealth of experience to our charity, at a time when we are looking to expand our influence and impact.
She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Licensees like dress up companies seem to use World Book Day as a way of driving sales in their category. Do you think there are ways you can work with established categories like this in a more integrated way?
With Maya on board we plan to work more closely with our existing partners to broaden the opportunities – as well as develop new relationships to support our charitable purpose. Working with partners can help our message about the life-changing benefits of reading reach a wider range of families and children.
Dress up is a well-known feature of World Book Day so it presents a major opportunity, but other partners – such as McDonald’s, who have huge reach – play an important role in achieving our mission, by getting the £1 book tokens into the hands of children who may never have owned their own book before.
Yes, on that, I am a great fan of the £1 books published in association with World Book Day. Can you explain how these are chosen?
World Book Day’s £1 tokens and £1 book exchange have been an exciting part of how we work since the early days. They are, at heart, a gift to children from booksellers and publishers, who take part to give children the chance to experience choosing and owning a book – for free.
World Book Day works with publishers to create a list of £1 books to appeal to a wide range of children at all ages, interests, and stages of reading. Publishers suggest titles and a selection panel chooses from these submissions. The selection panel includes a range of expert voices from libraries, communities, partner charities and retailers. World Book Day selects the final list, and the chosen publishers then produce and publish the £1 books – covering all the costs. Booksellers buy the books from publishers and give them to children in exchange for the £1 token.
World Book Day sends the £1 token to children in schools and nurseries across the UK and Ireland, and also distribute through our partners, such as McDonald’s Happy Meals. We know that around 50 million of our £1 tokens are given out and that over two million £1 books are gifted in return.
One in five pupils receiving free school meals tell us that £1 book ‘bought’ with their £1 token was the first book of their own.
What a stat – and what an initiative. I have seen a lot of World Book Day activations in a range of retailers. How do these come about and how closely do you get involved in managing these activations?
We work closely with booksellers and retailers to support and collaborate their World Book Day activities, which often involves book events and activities with local schools and communities, as well as the £1 token/£1 book exchange. While the books are bought by the retailers from the publishers or wholesalers, we create the branded FSDUs and approve the retailers’ creative.
Independent booksellers seem to really get behind World Book Day. Can you tell us a little bit more about the independent bookseller category in the UK and their role in book selling in general?
This year over 400 independent booksellers took part in World Book Day – all providing amazing support to our charity and helping to create the readers of the future. Indies are particularly brilliant at connecting with local schools and understanding the community they are a part of.
“We would love to hear from commercial companies who want to work alongside us to create long-term partnerships with our charity.”
Many bookshops, including the high street chains who participate and supermarkets too, hold pop-up book shops for World Book Day in schools, so that children – particularly those less familiar with book shops – can discover reading recommendations and to enjoy events with authors and illustrators, and experience choosing a book.
A lot of our readers are from the design, illustration and creative industries. Thinking about design in particular, what changes and developments have you seen in children’s books in recent years?
It is brilliant to now see greater diversity in children’s publishing now, with better representation across authors, illustrators, design and content, appealing and inclusive to a wider audience.
Finally, if you had to recommend both a classic children’s book and a more contemporary one to someone looking to encourage a child to read what titles would you recommend ?
I’d always suggest our World Book Day £1 books! There isn’t one book that will work for every child -that’s why we offer a choice. They offer something for a wide range of readers from different age groups, reading abilities and interests too. My top tip is to encourage a child choose for themselves – this is what helps them get the motivation to read. Reading for pleasure is about what we want to read and enjoy reading – so there can’t be any wrong choices. Be there to help and point them in the direction of books they might like, but be open to the idea that you might be surprised by what they choose!
Cassie, a huge thanks. Let’s catch up again soon.
World Book Day® and the associated logo are the registered trademarks of World Book Day® Limited.
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