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World Book Night writes another chapter
Once a year, school librarian Bobi Kress trades her room filled with hundreds of books for a spot on a sidewalk with an armload of good stuff to read.
That special day was April 23, and her location, as in 2012, was in front of Harkins Theatres.
Between the hours of 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., Kress walked up to strangers and asked if they wanted a free book. This very public celebration of Kress' love for literacy came in observation of World Book Night, one night a year when book lovers hit the streets at a coordinated time around the globe and give free books to prospective bookworms.
“To me the idea of enticing someone who doesn't like to read or may not be taking the time to read is just really gratifying,” Kress says. “I just love the expressions on people's faces once they understand what World Book Night is all about.”
World Book Night's organization gives each volunteer 20 copies of chosen book taking from that year's list of featured books (see list below). Last year, Kress chose “Piece Like a River” by Leif Enger. This year's book was “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.
“It went spiffy!” she said. “I only had one person turn me down, kind of throw their hands up in disgust and walk away. I honestly think they probably thought I was trying to sell them something.
“Most people are a little surprised that you're giving away something for free. It's always great when you see people walking away and they're already thumbing through the book.”
The timing of World Book Night is certainly not random. April 23 is the UNESCO International Day of the Book. The date also marks the birth of Shakespeare and the death of Miguel de Cervantes. In the Catalan region of Spain, April 23 is celebrated by giving a book and a flower to a loved one.
World Book Night began in the United Kingdom three years ago and has since spread to Ireland, Germany and the United States. Publishers provide the books for free and authors agree to forgo royalties for the distributed books.
“This is only the second year it has been done in this country,” Kress explained.
Half a million books were distributed in the U.S. this year, thanks to the efforts of 25,000 volunteers.
The goal of World Book Night is to seek out adult readers in public settings ranging from nursing homes and food pantries to low-income schools and mass transit.
The nonprofit organization explains it this way on its website: “Reading for pleasure improves literacy, actively engaging emerging readers in their desire to read. Reading changes lives, improves employability, social interaction, enfranchisement, and can have a positive effect on mental health and happiness.
“Book readers are more likely to participate in positive activities such as volunteering, attending cultural events, and even physical exercise.”
Kress works as a librarian for Pueblo Elementary School in Yuma. But her love of books doesn't stop at reading. Kress, who goes by the pen name Bobi Martin, has written several children's books. She has also edited numerous novels and textbooks. On top of her work with books, she has also written articles for national magazines such as Woman's Day and Highlights for Children.
On World Book Night, Kress ran into three other volunteers last year and happily reports that 2013's number had doubled.
“It's really exciting to see there are a lot of people who want to share their love of books and their love of reading.”
This year’s selections (In alphabetical order by author):
“The Handmaid's Tale,” Margaret Atwood (Anchor Books/Random House)
“City of Thieves,” David Benioff (Plume/Penguin Group (USA))
“Fahrenheit 451,” Ray Bradbury (Simon & Schuster Paperbacks)
“My Antonia,” Willa Cather (Dover)
“Girl with a Pearl Earring,” Tracy Chevalier (Plume/Penguin Group (USA))
“The House on Mango Street,” Sandra Cisneros (Vintage/Random House)
“La casa en Mango Street,” Sandra Cisneros; translated by Elena Poniatowska (Vintage Español/Random House)
“The Alchemist,” Paulo Coelho (HarperOne/HarperCollins)
“El Alquimista,” Paulo Coelho (Rayo/HarperCollins)
“The Language of Flowers,” Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Ballantine Books/Random House)
“The Worst Hard Time,” Timothy Egan (Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
“Bossypants,” Tina Fey (Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books)
“Good Omens,” Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett (William Morrow Paperbacks/HarperCollins)
“Still Alice,” Lisa Genova (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster)
“Looking for Alaska,” John Green (Speak/Penguin Group (USA))
“Playing for Pizza,” John Grisham (Bantam/Random House)
“Mudbound,” Hillary Jordan (Algonquin Books/Workman Publishing)
“The Phantom Tollbooth,” Norton Juster; illus. by Jules Feiffer (Yearling/Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)
“Moneyball,” Michael Lewis (W. W. Norton)
“The Tender Bar,” J. R. Moehringer (Hyperion)
“Devil in a Blue Dress,” Walter Mosley (Simon & Schuster)
“Middle School,” The Worst Years of My Life, James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
“Population: 485,” Michael Perry (HarperPerennial/HarperCollins)
“The Lightning Thief,” Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion)
“Montana Sky,” Nora Roberts (Berkley/Penguin Group (USA))
“Look Again,” Lisa Scottoline (St. Martin's)
“Me Talk Pretty One Day,” David Sedaris (Back Bay Books/Little Brown)
“The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency,” Alexander McCall Smith (Anchor Books/Random House)
“Glaciers, Alexis M. Smith” (Tin House Books)
“A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court,” Mark Twain (Dover)
“Salvage the Bones,” Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury)
“Favorite American Poems” (Large Print edition) Various authors (Dover)