As the world battles with coronavirus, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has called for the 'magic of books that we need now' on World Book Day 2020.
“23 April is #WorldBookDay! In a world disrupted by #COVID19, it is the magic of books that we need now. Let's unleash the power of reading to dream, to learn and to help us build a better tomorrow!" UNESCO said on micro-blogging site Twitter
So what is World Book Day?
April 23 is a symbolic date for world literature. It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors Maurice Druon, Haldor K Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.
The date was decided upon at the UNESCO's General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors.
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Over 100 countries observe the day. Since 2000, each year a city is chosen as ‘World Book Capital’ which undertakes to maintain, through its own initiatives, the impetus of the Day’s celebrations for a year.
This year, the ‘World Book Capital for 2020’ is Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
The city was selected for its “strong focus on inclusive education, the development of a knowledge-based society and accessible reading for all parts of the city’s population,” UNESCO said.
Why is it important?
As UNESCO explains on its site: “Now, more than ever, at a time where most of the schools around the world are closed and people are having to limit their time spent outside, the power of books should be leveraged to combat isolation, reinforce ties between people, expand our horizons while stimulating our minds and creativity.”
“Through reading and the celebration of World Book and Copyright Day, 23 April, we can open ourselves to others despite the distance, and we can travel thanks to the imagination. By creating a sense of community through the shared readings and the shared knowledge, readers around the world can connect and mutually help curb loneliness,” it added.
In this spirit, #WorldBookDay is also trending on Twitter as people took to sharing their favourite quotes and books on the occasion.
The United Nationals agency also called on everyone to #StayAtHome and linked materials that can be downloaded to be enjoyed at home. You can access the UNESCO Courier issues on books here.
This year, the event has four slogans:
Read... so that no strangers remain
Read... grow wings and travel
Read... so that no culture stays unknown
Read... so you never feel alone
Summing these up, Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO said: "Books have the unique ability both to entertain and to teach. They are at once a means of exploring realms beyond our personal experience through exposure to different authors, universes and cultures, and a means of accessing the deepest recesses of our inner selves."Follow our full COVID-19 coverage here