World Book Day

Category: Reading

There are few pleasures greater than reading a good book. Picking up a book and losing yourself in its pages is something magical. Culture, especially in the form of literature and the arts, enables us to make sense of the world around us, or, when needed, can provide a welcome distraction.

Reading provides some widely recognised benefits, especially during childhood – from boosting learning and memory to stimulating creativity. Today, we celebrate World Book Day, a worldwide event dedicated to books marked in over 100 countries. I invite you to join me and play your part in our drive to become a nation of book lovers.

Reading provides widely recognised benefits, especially during childhood

This year’s celebration is special: 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of World Book Day’s introduction in Scotland. During this time, World Book Day has enabled children of all ages to come together to appreciate reading and has encouraged them to explore the pleasures of books by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own.

Thanks to the generosity of publishers and booksellers and in partnership with the National Book Tokens, World Book Day will commit to sending almost 15 million book vouchers to children and young people this year, reaching almost every youngster under 18 in the country. Schools across Scotland will receive packs of Book Tokens and other resources to engage pupils in a wide range of activities and stimulate their love of reading. World Book Day encourages schools to celebrate reading, with many children dressing up as favourite characters and taking part in fun activities.

Thousands of children will be reached during one single day and will be made aware of the benefits of reading for their personal development. However, we know there is more to do, which is why the First Minister today announced an extension to the Reading Challenge launched in 2016 and reinforced our view of reading as one of the cornerstones of our Curriculum for Excellence and Literacy Action Plan. After the success of the initial scheme, the Challenge will now be open to children in primary 1 to primary 7 and will encourage children to read for pleasure. A specially-selected list of 100 top titles provides inspiration and a suggested starting point for their reading, which they can then keep track of in a Reading Passport.

The Reading Challenge will now be open to children in primary 1 to primary 7, encouraging them to read for pleasure

The Scottish Government places huge importance on literacy. We launched Book Week Scotland, this year celebrating its sixth anniversary, which annually gifts books to primary children all across the country to encourage them to read. In 2015-16, Scottish Book Trust gifted almost 1 million books across Scotland. Many were given through initiatives that are supported by the Scottish Government, such as Bookbug, Read, Write, Count and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

As a keen reader myself, I believe in the importance of early years reading for a child’s future development. Mine, too, is a story of lifelong love of books: I have great memories of books I have enjoyed since I was a child and that have accompanied me throughout the years – from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from the Narnia series to The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, which I am currently reading following my recent visit to Japan.

I encourage everyone in Scotland, especially today, to celebrate reading with me and commit to finding some time to immerse themselves in their favourite book.

Fiona Hyslop

Fiona Hyslop is the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

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