China Underground > China Book Library > World Book Day, Celebrating the Joy of Reading and Literature

World Book Day, Celebrating the Joy of Reading and Literature

A series of interviews with Chinese and international authors to celebrate the World Book and Copyright Day, a platform to bring together millions of people around the world.

International Book Day, or World Book and Copyright Day, is an annual event organized by the United Nations Organization about education, sciences, and culture to promote reading, publishing, and copyright. 

What are the origins of this celebration? 

Book Day was born in Spain in 1926 and was initially celebrated on October 7, as the creator of Don Quixote was believed to have been born on this date, according to the National Library of Spain. The Valencian writer Vicente Clavel was the original promoter of the proposal to dedicate one day a year to the celebration of the Book Festival, which was presented to the Official Chamber of the Book of Barcelona in 1923. Two years later, Clavel reiterated his proposal in Catalonia and started negotiations in Madrid as well. Finally, on February 6, 1926, King Alfonso XIII approved and signed the Royal Decree which stated that on October 7 of each year the birth of Cervantes would be commemorated with a feast dedicated to the Spanish book. In 1929 there was a lot of worldwide resonance thanks to the Barcelona International Exposition and the Ibero-American Exposition in Seville. However, the initiative soon encountered strong controversy over the choice of date, since it seemed pointless to celebrate Cervantes on the date of birth on which there was no certainty. 

The other reason was of a more practical nature, and spring seemed a more appropriate time than autumn. This situation was resolved in 1930 when it was decided to permanently move the Book Festival to April 23rd. The celebration continued to enjoy great popularity, especially in Catalonia, where it coincides with the Diada de Sant Jordi, the patron saint of Catalonia. The Diada usually involves the exchange of gifts between loved ones and, from the 1931 Book Fair in Barcelona, even nowaday ​​the gifts are a book and a rose.

In 1995 in Paris, the Spanish government presented the International Union of Publishers’ proposal for the worldwide celebration of Book Day to UNESCO. The General Conference approved it the same year. This choice of date also coincides with the death date of three authors who have made the history of literature such as William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. Furthermore, UNESCO, together with the International Union of Publishers, the International Federation of Booksellers, and the International Federation of Library Associations and Libraries, designate a city as World Book Capital, which during the arc of the year continues the promotion of reading until the following 23 April. In 2001, Madrid was the first city chosen by the commission. In some countries, World Book Day takes place on other days of the year, although the international event was created by UNESCO. In the UK and Ireland, World Book Day is a charity event in March, held annually on the first Thursday and coinciding with the release of special editions.

How is this day celebrated? 

Thanks to the brilliant invention of the movable-type printing press in the mid-15th century, by Johannes Gutenberg who brought books into the industrial age, making them easily available to anyone who wanted to read them, today we celebrate what could also be called the day of universal culture. Before then, the writing systems of ancient civilizations thousands of years ago were clay tablets, subsequently, humanity switched to the use of papyrus and paper, during the Eastern Han period (25-220 CE). Printing was invented in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD) using carved wooden blocks to press ink onto sheets of paper. With the press, books became more accessible, making knowledge and learning for a growing number of people. Every year on this day, celebrations are held around the world to recognize the importance of books that create a link between past and future, a bridge between generations and between cultures. This anniversary promotes the enjoyment and benefits of books and reading. Books are vital vehicles for accessing, transmitting, and promoting information and content of any kind. Today we celebrate the power of innovation and information around the world. Today is a day to satisfy the senses in the magical world of literature, which allows you to travel without money and without means of transport, a time machine that makes discover and learn about customs and ideas far away in various eras and that offers keys to similarities and differences, to open minds between the particular and the universal. Today books and copyright are defended, creativity, diversity, and equal access to knowledge are defended, and literacy and learning are promoted. Loving and defending books is synonymous with hope and openness to dialogue.

Cities designated as UNESCO World Book Capital carry out activities with the aim of encouraging a culture of reading for all ages and sharing UNESCO values. They are committed to implementing policies that promote books as an instrument of cultural evolution, with the aim of fighting violence and building a culture of peace. Activities to celebrate and promote books and reading also include street festivals in some cities. A worldwide homage is paid to books and authors, encouraging everyone to access the books. On this day novelties are also proposed and may coincide with organizations of presentations of publications, debates on books, readings, interviews open to the public, or signing of copies with the authors. Since reading is also a personal action, there are infinite possibilities in marking this day, which is celebrated in over 100 countries around the world. 

What are the benefits of a book and reading? 

Regardless of how someone decides to take advantage of reading, whether it is traditional on paper or digital reading, or whether it is reading novels, detective stories, comics, biographies, information, learning manuals, religious books, etc … regardless of one’s individual choices, reading always enriches, adds and does not subtract. Unlike other days promoted by the United Nations, there are no themes for World Book Day, to ensure maximum autonomy and freedom.

Immersing in reading is an educational training experience in various aspects. Books are devices to ignite the imagination. Hearing someone read aloud offers space for the inventiveness, which in our age is often suffocated and conveyed by the excessive accumulation of images that are enjoyed due to media and marketing bombardments that homologate many minds and make them unable to think independently and freely.

Reading is now more important than ever because it creates emancipation, independence, and autonomy. Books encourage thinking, fighting inequalities and disinformation, and breaking down prejudices, and stereotypes, they are vehicles for preventing discrimination, injustice, intolerance, sensitizing people, and bringing emotions. Reading also becomes an opportunity to compare ideas and interpretations: the different understandings of a book can create debates to see new points of view and new solutions. Books play an important role in social change, in the fight against violence, and in building a culture of peace. Reading aloud helps improve pronunciation, strengthen confidence, and therefore benefit individual self-esteem. Thanks to books, it is easy to learn a language properly from a grammatical point of view, that is, you study without realizing it, increasing your dialectical, comprehension, concentration, and writing properties. It has a positive impact on enriching personal vocabulary and creating connections between words and emotions. While reading with the mind stimulates the dynamics of inner dialogue and therefore brings benefits to the conscience, it helps to know oneself and to know the other, bringing benefits to the EQ. Books are also a great way to reduce stress, which causes damage to the immune system. Numerous studies have shown that reading stimulates the mind and prevents the development of diseases such as senile dementia, Alzheimer’s, and memory loss. They are the gymnastics of the brain that protect it from deterioration and decline and keep it healthy even in old age. 

Thanks to the work of interpreters and translators we can access a growing number of books from all over the world. More and more Chinese authors are well-known internationally, and more and more Westerners are interested in and write about China from many different points of view.

On our website, it is possible to find lists of books, reviews, and also interviews with authors who have opened the doors of their minds and who have shared their life experiences, fantasies, curiosities, historical research, etc. to offer new points of view and bring humanity closer.

Interview with Helen Zia. She has been outspoken on social justice issues ranging from human rights, and peace to women’s rights, countering hate violence, homophobia, and civil rights campaign against anti-Asian violence.

Helen-Zia

Interview with Author, and Poet Chen Chen. His work has appeared in Poetry, The Massachusetts Review, Drunken Boat, Best of the Net, The Best American Poetry, The Academy of American Poets, and elsewhere. When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities was a finalist for the Lambda literary award for gay poetry.

Chen Chen
Chen Chen. Author: Jess X. Snow

Interview with Nona Mock Wyman. In her books, she touches on the themes of loss and of strength and peace found. She tells of her life-long search to understand her own roots, but also her gratitude for having a place to grow up with other girls in the same situation.

Nona-Mock-Wyman

Interview with author Jeremy Tiang. Jeremy translates plays and novels from Chinese. He is also a talented playwright and an author.

Jeremy-Tiang

Interview with Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer Xia Jia. Her works have been translated into Czech, Italian, French, Korean, German, Spanish, Japanese, and Polish. She’s also engaged in other science fiction-related works, including academic research, translation, screenwriting, and teaching creative writing.

xia-jia-science-fiction-writer-2

Interview with Richard Perkins, author of Spring Flower: A Tale of Two Rivers. Richard edited his mother’s memoir. The book is a first-hand testimony of the dramatic events that have marked China’s recent history.

Spring Flower A Tale of Two Rivers interview

Interview with Guobin Yang: the role of the social media amid the Wuhan coronavirus lockdown. Guobin Yang’s research examines internet activism, social movements, digital culture, cultural sociology, historical sociology, critical theory, global communication, environmental communication, media, and Chinese politics.

guobin yang-social media wuhan

Interview with Alice Poon. Always fascinated with iconic but unsung women in Chinese history and legends, Alice Poon is the author of Tales of Ming Courtesans, The Green Phoenix, and the award-winning non-fiction title Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong.

alice-poon

Interview with Eric Fish. He is the author of ‘China’s Millennials’ which challenges the idea that this generation has been pacified by material comfort and nationalism.

eric-fish-Chinese millennials

Interview with Ed Shew, author of Chinese Brothers, American Sons. Through the eyes of two brothers, Li Chang and Li Yu, who come to San Francisco in 1854 in search of the Gold Mountain, ‘Chinese Brothers, American Sons’ chronicles the little-known narrative of these pioneers.

ed-shew-intro-photo

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