World Book Night a catalyst for change, report finds

30 July 2015

The celebratory nature of World Book Night and the delight at receiving a free book has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on recipients this year, with 98% of them reporting that they were pleased to receive their book and many reporting a shift in their attitudes towards reading.

The findings are based on data gathered as part of a large-scale independent impact evaluation, conducted by Free Thought Research from surveys and interviews with almost 5,000 book recipients and volunteers who gave out the books. We can also report that the initial positive glow of receiving a book develops into wider behavioural change around reading: just weeks after World Book Night, 80% of recipients were enjoying or had enjoyed reading their book. This behavioural change is particularly notable among those who previously never read or read less than once a month.

Since it began in 2011, World Book Night has created an extraordinary group of 56,000 volunteers giving books away to over 2.25 million people in total. On 23 April 2015, 250,000 books of 20 specially printed World Book Night titles were given out by the network of volunteer reading enthusiasts and institutions, who focus on reaching the 36% of the population who don’t read for pleasure (DCMS, 2015).

Re-engagement with reading

This report is the first evaluation of World Book Night to focus specifically on these infrequent or lapsed readers. It suggests overwhelmingly that World Book Night is a catalyst for change, with many recipients motivated to change their reading habits by their interactions with volunteers and the positive inference that they were someone who was open to new ideas.

World Book Night prompts recipients to do more than simply read the book they received; in many cases they re-evaluate their relationship with books. Delight at receiving a book translates into action, especially for those who were previously not frequent readers:

  • 80% of recipients who said they previously never read or read less than once a month said that they have read more since World Book Night
  • 85% of infrequent readers have talked to others about books more since taking part
  • 47% of this group report that they have already bought more books since World Book Night, and 32% have borrowed more from the library.

Many recipients said that World Book Night prompted them to re-engage with books and helped them discover new, relevant texts; this in turn gave them increased self-confidence as a reader and increased their awareness of the reading material available.

Impact on volunteers

World Book Night 2015 also had an extremely positive impact on volunteers, contributing to them becoming more personally engaged with books. Almost three quarters
(73%) have talked more about books since taking part in World Book Night and 83% said they plan to return to the library or bookshop from which they collected their books to buy or borrow books in the future.

These results will be explored in more depth in a final evaluation report published before the end of 2015.

Sue Wilkinson, Chief Executive, The Reading Agency, says:

This research shows just how effective World Book Night is in inspiring people who might not normally think about opening a book to get back into reading. We always believed that this was the case and now we have the firm evidence to demonstrate the difference our committed and energetic volunteers and partners are making. This report really does show the change that comes from being given a book.

Read our interim evaluation report here


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