World Book Day was created by UNESCO in 1995 as a worldwide celebration of books and reading. World Book Day is marked in over 100 countries around the globe. In the UK and Ireland it is being celebrated on 7 March 2024.

The World Book Day charity’s Strategy 2023-27 sets out that its aim is “more children, from all backgrounds, developing a life-long habit of reading for pleasure, benefiting from the improved life chances this brings them.”

The World Book Day Impact report for 2023 says that the charity promotes reading by:

  • Celebrating the joy of books, authors, illustrators and reading for pleasure
  • Transforming attitudes and changing behaviours by providing content to promote reading for fun
  • Ensuring every child gets to choose a book of their own with the World Book Day £1/ €1.50 books and tokens. 

The National Literacy Trust’s Annual Literacy Survey, published in September 2023, recorded the lowest level of reading enjoyment since the Trust began its survey in 2005. The Trust said:

  • Just 2 in 5 (43.4%) children and young people aged 8 to 18 said they enjoyed reading in their free time in 2023. This is the lowest level since we first asked the question in 2005.
  • Fewer than 3 in 10 (28.0%) children and young people aged 8 to 18 said that they read daily in 2023, matching levels seen in 2022.
  • Within the 8 to 18 age group, 1 in 2 (52.9%) told us they had been encouraged to read by their parents/carers. 3 in 5 (58.4%) had seen their parents/carers read, while 1 in 5 (19.9%) had read with their family.

The Trust found that a large part of the reason for the decline in reading enjoyment was that that fewer of those who have traditionally enjoyed reading, such as girls and those aged 8 to 11, continued to say they enjoy it. 

Parliamentary material

Books in Primary Schools
24 January 2024 | Westminster Hall | 744 cc129-137WH

Children’s Access to Books
6 June 2023 | Westminster Hall | 733 cc277-301WH

Child Literacy: Disadvantaged Areas
22 February 2023 | Westminster Hall | 728 cc120-9WH

Literacy: Children
28 November 2023 | UIN 2523

Literacy: Special Educational Needs
08 September 2023 | UIN 195561

Parliamentary Question on access to books: 
Publications: Children
07 March 2023 | UIN 153987

Press material

National Literacy Trust declares ‘literacy crisis’ as it launches Early Years Matter campaign
The Bookseller
27 February 2024

Michael Morpurgo leads call for urgent children’s reading investment
BBC News
17 January 2024

Almost a million children in the UK do not own a book
The Guardian
28 November 2023

More than half of UK children do not read in their spare time, survey reveals
The Guardian
4 September 2023

Reading ability of children in England scores well in global survey
The Guardian
16 May 2023

Children read almost 25% more books last year, UK and Ireland study finds
The Guardian
25 April 2023

World Book Day: ‘Why I’ve given away 6,000 free books’
BBC News
2 March 2023

Further reading

World Book Day

Free Books Campaign

National Literacy Trust

BookTrust: Getting children reading

The reading framework
Department for Education
22 September 2023

The Power of Reading in the Early Years Report 2023
Centre for Literacy in Primary Education
18 September 2023

Exploring the impact of World Book Day on the reading lives of children in the UK 2019-2021
National Literacy Trust
1 February 2022

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