Four-year-old Xima Awada Yakub sits on a table and her sister, Zamai, sits next to her on a chair, both have a book on their laps.
Four-year-old Xima Awada Yakub (left) and her sister, Zamai, reading books in the library at the Cultural Centre in El Fasher, North Darfur. UN Photo/Albert González Farran

Books: A Window into the World During COVID-19

Now more than ever, at a time when globally most schools are closed and people are having to limit time spent out of their homes, the power of books can be leveraged to combat isolation, to reinforce ties between people, and to expand our horizons, while stimulating our minds and creativity.

During the month of April and all year round, it is critical to take the time to read on your own or with your children. 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.

Celebrating World Book and Copyright Day

Through reading and the celebration of World Book and Copyright Day, we can open ourselves to others despite distance. We can travel thanks to imagination. From April 1st to 23rd, UNESCO is sharing quotes, poems and messages to symbolize the power of books and encourage reading as much as possible. 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.

In such circumstances, we invite students, teachers, and readers from around the world, as well as the whole book industry and library services, to testify and express their love for reading. We encourage you to share this positive message with others through #StayAtHome and #WorldBookDay.

The more people we can reach, the more people may be helped.

World Book Capital for 2020: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Each year, UNESCO and the international organizations representing the three major sectors of the book industry - publishers, booksellers and libraries, select the World Book Capital for a one-year period, effective 23 April each year.

The city of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia was selected because of the strong focus on inclusive education, the development of a knowledge-based society and accessible reading for all parts of the city’s population.

With the slogan "KL Baca – caring through reading", the program focuses on four themes: reading in all its forms, development of the book industry infrastructure, inclusiveness and digital accessibility, and empowerment of children through reading. Among other events and activities there will be the construction of a book city (the Kota Buku Complex), a reading campaign for train commuters, enhancing of digital services and accessibility by the National Library of Malaysia for the disabled, and new digital services for libraries in 12 libraries in poor housing areas of Kuala Lumpur.

The city's objective is to foster a culture of reading and inclusiveness - “A city that reads is a city that cares” – emphasizing ubiquitous access to books throughout the city. The city’s ambitious programme for World Book Capital is linked to the Vision 2020 for Kuala Lumpur and the eco-city project called the River of Life with open-air bookshops and libraries populating the newly-restored waterways of the city.

Background

23 April 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, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.

It was a natural choice for UNESCO's General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those, who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity. With this in mind, UNESCO created the World Book and Copyright Day. The Day is celebrated by a growing number of partners and since its launch has shown itself to be a great opportunity for reflection and information on a significant theme.

It is observed by millions of people in over 100 countries, in hundreds of voluntary organizations, schools, public bodies, professional groups and private businesses. In this lengthy period, World Book and Copyright Day has won over a considerable number of people from every continent and all cultural backgrounds to the cause of books and copyright. It has enabled them to discover, make the most of and explore in greater depth a multitude of aspects of the publishing world: books as vectors of values and knowledge, and depositories of the intangible heritage; books as windows onto the diversity of cultures and as tools for dialogue; books as sources of material wealth and copyright-protected works of creative artists. All of these aspects have been the subject of numerous awareness-raising and promotional initiatives that have had a genuine impact. There must nevertheless be no let-up in these efforts.

Since 2000, World Book and Copyright Day has inspired another initiative of professional organizations which receives the assistance of UNESCO and backing from States: World Book Capital City. Each year a city is chosen which undertakes to maintain, through its own initiatives, the impetus of the Day’s celebrations until 23 April of the following year. Almost all the regions of the world, in turn, have already been involved in this process, which thus transforms the celebration of books and copyright into a recurrent activity, extending still further the geographical and cultural influence of books.

Over recent years, the World Day has shown that it can be a potent symbol for the launch of major support operations, in particular in Latin America and Africa.

Key Documents

Related Links

United Nations

UNESCO

World Intellectual Property Organization

Other Links

 

Woodrow Wilson Reading Room
A view of a section of the Woodrow Wilson Reading Room on the second floor of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library at UN Headquarters, NY. The room, which seats 36 persons, houses the collections of books and documents presented to the United Nations in 1950 by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

 

Woman is signing her book for a guest at a busy bookshop.

“Those who say that the book offers a more intimate and less mediatized form of communication with the reader are right – there is no need to click on a mouse to plunge in,” says Antonio Skármeta in an article recently published in The UNESCO Courier. Other famous novelists, such as Jorge AdoumMiguel Angel AsturiasMarshall McLuhanAlejo CarpentierLe ClézioAndré MauroisAlberto MoraviaLuis Sepúlveda also talk about the same passion: books!

Read their texts and discover UNESCO's selection of articles on copyright issues.

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.