Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have been turning to books to help them get through lockdowns and forced isolation. This is one reason that World Book and Copyright Day has particular significance in 2021.
The agency’s director-general, Audrey Azoulay, added that “it is the power of books that we all need right now, as we are reminded of the fundamental importance of literature - as well as the arts - in our lives.”
The purpose of the Day is to promote the enjoyment of books and reading, as well as to support authors, publishers and others in the industry, according to UNESCO. The first World Book Day was designated in 1995, and since then celebrations have taken place all over the world “to recognize the scope of books - a link between the past and the future, a bridge between generations and across cultures,” the agency said.
Officials point out that April 23 is a symbolic date in world literature, as this is the date on which several legendary authors, including William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, all died.
“This date was a natural choice for UNESCO's General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors…, encouraging everyone to access books,” UNESCO stated.
“It is a time to celebrate the importance of reading, foster children's growth as readers and promote a lifelong love of literature and integration into the world of work,” UNESCO said.
While reading in some countries has doubled over the past year, there are still many people who do not have access to books because of poverty, illiteracy, conflict or other reasons. Some organizations, including at the UN level, are working to improve the situation with literacy projects and book-donation schemes.
“The power of books must be fully harnessed. We must ensure their access so that everyone can take refuge in reading, and by doing so, be able to dream, learn and reflect,” Azoulay said.
Meanwhile, authors and others working in the arts sector have seen their activities dry up during the pandemic, as literary festivals, conferences and a range of cultural events have been cancelled. Writers, too, have had to try to escape via books.
Photos: Books at two independent bookshops in Paris, France.