World Book Night 2021 Celebrates 10th Anniversary: The Reading Agency and Specsavers Team Up To Make The Nation Smile

03 December 2020

  • The Reading Agency to partner with Specsavers for World Book Night 2021
  • Books to Make You Smile theme in response to the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and wellbeing
  • Brand new commissioned book featuring short stories by Jenny Éclair, Richard Madeley, Helen Lederer, Mark Watson and edited by Fanny Blake

Save the date: Friday 23rd April 2021

The Reading Agency has today announced that “Books To Make You Smile” will be the theme of World Book Night 2021 (23 April), to mark the tenth year of the annual campaign celebrating the shared pleasure of reading.

Building on the success of World Book Night 2020, which brought millions of people together for the #ReadingHour during the first national lockdown, next year’s theme is a response to the pandemic’s significant impact on the nation’s mental health.

To mark its tenth anniversary, World Book Night will produce a specially commissioned book, Stories to Make You Smile, published by Simon & Schuster. The collection will be edited by writer, former Costa Book Award judge and Quick Reads editor Fanny Blake. Confirmed authors include:

  • Jenny Éclair – comedian, novelist, actress and Loose Women panellist, and author of bestselling book Older and Wider – A Survivor’s Guide to the Menopause.
  • Richard Madeley – television royalty, writer and co-host of the UK’s biggest book club, The Richard and Judy Book Club.
  • Helen Lederer – comedian, writer and actress, famous for her role as Catriona in Absolutely Fabulous.
  • Mark Watson – award-winning Edinburgh Fringe comedian, radio presenter and author of seven novels.
  • Dorothy Koomson – best-selling author of The Ice Cream Girls and The Brighton Mermaid, described as “Britain’s biggest selling Black author of adult fiction” (The Independent).
  • Eva Verde – debut author of Little Lives Like Mine_; her memoir piece, ‘I am not your Tituba’ was selected to form part of Kit De Waal’s "_Common People – An Anthology of Working Class Writers":
  • Vaseem Khan – best-selling author of Indian-set crime series Baby Ganesh Agency and the Malabar House novels, whose books have been optioned for film by Cinestaan.
  • Rachel Hore – Sunday Times Top Ten best-selling author of eleven novels, including The Dream House, The Glasspainter’s Daughter and A Beautiful Spy.
  • Veronica Henry – journalist and bestselling author of romance novels, including A Night on the Orient Express and A Wedding at the Beach Hut.

The book commission is made possible by a brand-new partnership with Specsavers which has teamed up with The Reading Agency to produce the free book to help bring smiles to people’s faces. It also coincides with Specsavers new multichannel campaign, Something to Smile About, to celebrate the positivity and joy that a simple smile can bring when times are difficult. The book will be available as part of the national World Book Night giveaway and for Specsavers customers, with details to be announced in 2021.

World Book Night 2021 will also once again team up with publishers to give away over 50,000 books in various formats, with the World Book Night booklist to be announced later in December. The giveaway will see books and audiobooks donated to organisations including prisons, hospitals, youth centres, care homes and mental health groups, to spread the joy of reading to those who don’t regularly read for pleasure or have access to books.

Research shows a sharp increase in the proportion of adults experiencing poor mental health during the pandemic, increasing by 80% among 18-29-year-olds and 68% among those aged 65-79 (Resolution Foundation); half of adults (49%) said their wellbeing has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak (ONS); and twice as many adults in Britain reported symptoms of depression during the pandemic compared with the same time last year (ONS). The research highlights that the most affected groups are people from BAME backgrounds, women, younger adults, key workers, people living in overcrowded houses, people with lower incomes and prisoners (COVID-19 Social Study).

The Reading Agency’s World Book Night 2021 campaign aims to support everyone in finding more time to read and feel connected to a reading community. Reading is proven to improve mental health, self-esteem, empathy, concentration and more, with research showing adults who read for 30 minutes a week are 20% more likely to report greater life satisfaction (source: The Reading Agency).

Jenny Éclair, author of Older and Wider – A Survivor’s Guide to the Menopause, said: “I am thrilled to be one of the 10 authors contributing to the first ever World Book Night book, as part of the national 10th anniversary celebrations! An anthology of stories to make you smile is just what the nation needs after an extremely tough 2020. I look forward to working with The Reading Agency and their 2021 partners, to lift the nations spirits and put a smile on all of our faces!”

Karen Napier, Chief Executive of the Reading Agency, said: “We’re really delighted to be partnering with Specsavers for the 2021 World Book Night. This year has been really challenging for everyone, and during lockdown in April, we saw first-hand how World Book Night and the #ReadingHour brought people together and spread the joy of reading across the nation. We can’t wait to celebrate the 10th Anniversary in April 2021, share the wonderful stories from our specially commissioned book, and help get the nation smiling!”

Dame Mary Perkins, co-founder of Specsavers, said: ‘‘The Reading Agency always does a wonderful job of bringing people together through the love of reading, which continues to be one of our most popular past-times, increasingly so since we have had to spend more time at home. We are delighted to be working with them to support and encourage literacy and good vision so that people can continue to enjoy reading, and hope that this exciting new collection of stories will bring smiles to the faces of people across the UK.”

Paul O’Grady, Summer Reading Challenge 2020 ambassador said: “World Book Night is a wonderful celebration of books and reading, and it is great to see The Reading Agency carrying on the great work from their silly summer for children with another uplifting theme – Books That Make You Smile – this time for adults. We all need a good laugh right now and The Reading Agency and their partner, Specsavers, are set to ensure our moods are boosted this Spring!”

Follow the latest developments on social media:

@WorldBookNight / @ReadingAgency / @Specsavers

#WorldBookNight / #ReadingHour / #BooksToMakeYouSmile


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