For many school children across the UK, World Book Day on the 7th March is an opportunity to dress up and spend a day discussing their favourite books and characters with their friends. But far from merely being a superficial event, World Book Day is a reason to consider just how important it is in the modern world to be able to read anything and everything, from articles in the news, to labels on the side of food packets.

According to the National Literacy Trust’s survey in 2022, 1 in 5 children between five and eight don't own their own book, and it was found in 2023 that just 2 in 5 children enjoy reading in their free time; the fewest since records began in 2005. Unfortunately, it’s a problem that doesn’t just go away as we grow up - many teenagers do not feel inclined to read, or find that even if they want to, they do not have the time between the constraints of homework and active social lives; those who read voraciously are a rarity rather than the norm. As children and young people who are the most engaged with literacy are three times more likely to have better mental wellbeing than those who are not, it is more important than ever to concentrate on increasing literacy levels.

However, since World Book Day was first held in 1997, there have been great steps forwards to promote reading for pleasure, and the World Book Day organisers are unceasing in their ambition to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to read whatever their situation may be.

Sometimes, it’s not a lack of access to books that impacts literacy, and this is where the charity Chapter One takes to the stage, seeking to improve children’s literacy in disadvantaged areas. Operating in the UK since 2018, Chapter One provides weekly 1:1 reading sessions to primary school pupils in order to foster a love of reading which can be carried forward into adult life and passed down to future generations. Corporate partners (which range from Deloitte to Ocado and many in between) sponsor their staff as online reading volunteers, and they use the charity’s bespoke platform to talk to students across the country, playing games and reading stories to introduce students to reading in a safe and supportive environment. Lisa Clee, who has been volunteering for the scheme since September, said “I think it's very important to read with children, it can spark a wonderful imagination, help build confidence, and it can give comfort too. Reading with my little one is so much fun and it's so rewarding, especially when they start opening up to you and telling you what their favourite things are. It never fails to put a smile on my face.”

Another improvement is the availability of books for children and teens, which has increased massively, with sales of young adult books in particular growing by 48% since 2018. Representing a huge growth in the diversity and variety of books available for a previously overlooked age range, this allows everyone to find something that they connect with and which inspires them to read more. School libraries are particularly vital to this, as they allow students to explore a range of books suitable for their level and interests, as well as creating an atmosphere of calm where the stresses of the day can be ignored. I spoke to Mrs Fernandez, our school librarian, who said, “A wide selection of genres available to our students enables the discovery of different storytelling styles, themes and perspectives, which aids critical thinking skills and creativity from the ideas they encounter. It's important for students to find genres they enjoy to generate a love of reading for their whole life - people's taste in the stories they enjoy vary so diversity is paramount when developing the skills and pleasure in reading.” She also added that she thinks all schools should have a library, as this has been demonstrated to have clear educational benefits for students.

With World Book Day just around the corner, it is a chance for everyone, young and old, to improve their wellbeing by taking time out of our hectic schedules and indulge in a passion for reading - you never know, the next book on your ‘to be read’ pile might be your new favourite!