The Bookseller – Commentary – Adults need World Book Day too

Happy World Book Day to everyone who celebrates it! I think we readers need to start treating WBD like Christmas. We could all sing special Christmas carols (‘Every Day I Write The Book’, ‘Paperback Writer’) and eat cake – perhaps M&S could be persuaded to make Colin the Caterpillar a friend called Betty the Bookworm. If nothing else, I’d like to mark the day with an hour of reading. Maybe everyone could start work an hour later, or get half a day to spend some time with a book.

Many of us associate WBD with fancy dress – and if you’re a parent of young children, you might be reading this right after you put down the scissors and promise yourself that next year you’ll just buy a Gruffalo costume. But there’s more to it than dressing up. This year we are invited to stop worrying about what young people read and focus on how they read.

Cassie Chadderton, CEO of WBD, explains: “Our research has shown that a big barrier to reading is when children and young people feel judged about their choices – especially if an adult says a book is ‘too young’ or ‘unsuitable’. ‘ is. can help children by letting go of the pressure and expectations and simply letting them choose whether they want to read for pleasure. If fewer adults felt guilty about reading, maybe fewer children would too!”

Those of us who grew up with WBD are now in our twenties and thirties. We may not dress up ourselves, but I think we need the message of it more than ever.
Books have transformed my life and I am an evangelical reader. DK will publish my book in February 2025 Read yourself happy – a guide to building a reading habit that will ease your anxiety and ultimately bring you joy. As host of the You’re Booked podcast, I regularly speak with celebrated authors about the impact reading has on their work. Writers are without exception readers and have found solace in books during difficult times. But even the best-read among us are unsure about what we read and whether we read enough. Books have the power to make everything better, but it’s hard to harness that power when we’ve forgotten that reading should feel good in the first place.

Books have the power to make everything better, but it’s hard to harness that power when we’ve forgotten that reading should feel good in the first place.

I would like to reclaim WBD as a celebration of lifelong literacy. It’s vital that we promote a love of reading in children, but it’s just as important to remember that adults need books too. We all struggle to manage our mental health – and I believe developing a regular reading habit is the best thing any of us can do to manage our anxiety. Deep down we know this. That’s why we stay up all night making costumes. We want our children to love books because we believe that books will make them kinder, smarter and calmer. Yet we don’t necessarily apply that belief to our adult lives.

A survey by the Reading Agency found that non-readers were 28% more likely to report feelings of depression – but regular readers reported the fewest feelings of stress and depression. According to ONS statistics, all countries are seeing an increase in anxiety levels year on year. The Mental Health Foundation found that 73% of us have felt anxious recently, and 20% of us feel anxious all the time. Studies consistently show that reading has tremendous mental benefits. A study from the University of Sussex found that six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by 68%, and a newly published study by Lynn Eekhof proves that regular reading increases empathy. I don’t understand why the benefits of regular reading don’t make headlines. I believe books are even better for us than cold showers and kale.

Books have given me immeasurable mental benefits. I think reading saved my life. During a rough patch in my twenties, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and found myself returning to my favorite novels for comfort and relief. Picking up a familiar book feels like being in the company of very old friends – letting them entertain and care for you. The more I read, the more I want to read.

For this year’s WBD I’m going to make some kind of cake. I might even dress up as the Gruffalo. But first I’m going to read. For fun. I could curl up with a Sophie Kinsella or a Mick Herron. Maybe I’ll pick up something I know almost by heart, for example Rachel’s vacationor The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. I’m going to read for pure, selfish pleasure, until I feel my shoulders slump, my heart rate slow, and my breathing deepen. Reading regularly, for pleasure, has made me calmer and happier. A ‘good book’ is the book you want to read. The sooner we can share that message, the better – but it’s never too late to learn.

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