Happy World Book Day! What’s World Book Day?

It's a world-wide celebration, so why does it take place on different days in different places?

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Today, March 7, British citizens are celebrating World Book Day. The rest of us will have to wait a few more weeks.


Let us explain. World Book Day was started by UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and is celebrated on Apr. 23 — a date chosen, according to UNESCO, to mark the day in 1616 that saw the deaths of Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. The event is meant to honor authors and encourage literacy. And it’s not just World Book Day. It’s also UNESCO’s Copyright Day, meant to urge implementation of copyright-protection conventions around the world.

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The U.K. and Ireland version of World Book Day is observed earlier, partly due to working around school holidays, and involves a literacy-promoting charity — as well as something the rest of the world is missing: costumes.

As the BBC recounts, the day is often marked by children dressing up as their favorite literary characters—even when those characters are only slightly book-related. In this particular complaint, the character in question is a Lego ninja—and the day ends up not so much about books after all:

There was a time when reading a book meant just that. In your head, out loud, to yourself or to a crowd. Whichever way, it was reading.

But not any more. It’s about dressing up. Or at least it’s about dressing up if you happen to be of school age and your teachers have been sucked into the literary-industrial complex of World Book Day.

Somehow we doubt that UNESCO will be adding World Literary-Industrial Complex Day to the calendar any time soon…