Do you know what April 23rd is?

You are correct if you guessed William Shakespeare’s birthday—and the day he died, too. But I’m looking for another bookish answer. Anyone?

It’s World Book Night! The first (hopefully annual) celebration of books and reading. If you haven’t heard about the nationwide event happening in many cities, I caught up with Carl Lennertz, Executive Director, World Book Night U.S., to learn more about it and how book lovers everywhere can get involved.

If you aren’t participating today, I encourage you to follow Carl and his team on Facebook and Twitter so you can be a part of this really cool plan to give away thousands and thousands of books in your community next year.

Briefly, what is World Book Night and how did it come about here in the U.S. this year?

It’s a one day giveaway of free books by volunteers to light or non-readers, and it started in the UK last year. It was such a success, the American book industry got behind it this year, and to the tune of a half million free books!

There are 30 World Book Night titles. How did you come up with this list? Do you have a personal favorite?

We came to it via several rounds of voting by booksellers and librarians, and yes, I was thrilled that Ender’s Game made this list.  I was a sci-fi guy in college, and I’m hoping Dune makes the list next year!

I understand thousands of citizens across the U.S. signed up to give books out tonight. How many cities are represented?

25,000 citizens, in fact, including some of the wonderful employees of your company. It’s taking place in 5,800 towns and cities total, AND you can see a map of where the givers are on our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/worldbooknightusa). There’s also a photo of the cool looking special WBN editions printed especially for this event.

To become a World Book Night Giver, people had to submit an application, including where they planned to give away books and why. Can you share some of the most touching entries you received?

I have almost cried at times. People are going to dialysis centers, women’s shelters, schools with at-risk kids, and so much more.  Military bases before troops go overseas. A lot of people are in need in this country, and the generosity and caring of the givers has made me especially proud of my fellow citizens. And yes, there will also be some fun spots: diners, bowling alleys, and even a tattoo parlor and a rodeo.

Givers will be picking up their boxes of books from bookstores (I’ve seen some great display photos!) and libraries across the country. Tell me about the involvement of these groups and what it means to World Book Night.

Because this is such a large country and also because I’m a small town kid, I always saw WBN as not top-down from NYC, but as grassroots and in the community, and no people are more a fabric of their towns than the booksellers and librarians. They are central to rallying the givers, getting them together and thanking them—giving this event a lasting impact.

For readers of this blog who may be hearing about World Book Night for the first time or did not participate this year, what do you want them to do?

Sign up for the newsletter and be the first to sign up next year!

Will this become an annual event?

Well, I certainly hope so.  A lot of people and companies have kicked in sweat and money, from you all to UPS to the publishers and book printers, but I’ll need that and some more next year.

Finally, after all the months of planning, World Book Night is finally here. What will you be doing tonight—giving out books?

I’ll be at a program that helps inner-city kids get college and financial advice, and I’ll be there with Ender’s Game!

 

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