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St. Valentine's Day is also International Book Giving Day

Hungarian artist Mariann Maray designed the 2014 International Book Giving Day Poster.
Mariann Maray

Saint Valentine's Day is also International Book Giving Day. The point of the new holiday is to give a book to a child. According to the Web site, "International Book Giving Day is a day dedicated to getting new, used and borrowed books in the hands of as many children as possible."

There are three ways to celebrate. The first is to give a children's book to a child who's a friend or relative.

The second is to leave a in a place where children are likely to get bored and look for something to read such as the waiting room of a doctor's office or a lobby. The third is to donate a book to a library, second-hand shop, hospital, or homeless shelter or to a charity that sends books to Third World countries.

The founder of International Book Day is Amy Broadmoore, a library science student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who aspires to become a children's librarian. She developed the idea in 2012.

Last year, International Book Giving Day was celebrated by people in Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and South Africa. Ms. Broadmoore states on the International Book Giving Day Web site that "Most children in developing countries do not own books," one-third of the children in the United Kingdom do not own books, and in the United States "two-thirds of children living in poverty do not own books."

In a 2012 interview with Dan McCue, Ms. Broadmoore wrote, "While we are encouraging individuals to engage in small acts of giving (e.g. give a book to a niece, give a box of books to your local Goodwill), if you feel up for it organize a book drive. Set out a book box at your local school, church, or coffee shop, and collect books to give to a good cause. While I am waiting for final approval, it sounds like we will be having a book drive at the church to collect books to donate to Books for Africa."

In addition to the Minnesota-based charity Books for Africa, which has sent more than 28,000,000 books to forty-nine different African countries since 1988, Ms. Broadmoore encourages people to donate books to Room to Read, Book Aid International, The Book Bus, First Book, Reading is Fundamental, Reach Out and Read, Prantham Books, Indigenous Literacy Foundation, Footpath Library, Nal’ibali, and Duffy Books in Homes.

Room to Read sends books to ten countries in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. It has established 16,060 school libraries, built 1,752 schools, published 885 books, and distributed 13,387,051 books. The organization also provides material goods and services to support the education of girls, such as school fees, school uniforms, and transportation. Book Aid International has sent over 30,000,000 books to African libraries since 1954.

The British charity The Book Bus sends books to India, Ecuador, Zambia, and Malawi. The Book Bus First Book has distributed over 100,000,000 books to schools and programs that serve poor children in the United States and Canada.

Reading is Fundamental has provided 35,000,000 poor American children with 400,000,000 new books since 1966. Each year, doctors and nurses at the nearly 5,000 Reach Out and Read program sites throughout the U.S. distribute 6,500,000 books to children and invaluable literacy advice to parents.

The Indian non-profit publisher Prantham Books has published over 11,000,000 books and 10,000,000 story cards. The Indigenous Literacy Foundation gives books to children in the remote communities of Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Footpath Library, another Australian charity, provides books to the homeless and other very poor people.

Nal’ibali is a South African literary campaign. The Alan Duff Charitable Foundation, which is better known as Duffy Books in Homes, provides over 100,000 children in New Zealand with books three times a year.

Todd Parr and Priya Kuriyan designed bookplates one should print out and place in the book or books one gives away. Hungarian designer and illustrator Mariann Maray designed the 2014 International Book Giving Day poster, which libraries, bookshops, and other supporters can display.

Zazzle is selling International Book Giving Day bookplates, stickers, and t-shirts. The company states, "We are selling International Book Giving Day stickers and bookplates for you to affix to books that you give to children for International Book Giving Day. We are keeping the prices of these items as low as Zazzle allows. Any profits we make, we will donate in equal amounts to Books for Africa, Room to Read and Book Aid International."

Australian children's book writers Professor Mem Fox and Jackie French are among the writers who made commitments to give away copies of their books. Mr. French, who is the Australian National Children’s Laureate for 2014-15, wrote on the International Book Giving Day Web site:

February 14 is International Book Giving Day. It’s not recognised by the United Nations, but it is an idea that is catching on around the world since it was begun by American book blogger, Amy Broadmore, in 2012.

Why give a book on what’s also St Valentine’s Day?

A book lasts longer than a box of chocolates or a bunch of roses. It is calorie free, cholesterol free, guilt free and does not provoke allergic reactions. But it can also be so powerful that tyrants like Pol Pot felt they had to massacre book readers. A book can lead you to paradise or rebellion.

What do you give someone who has everything? A book.

What do you give someone who has nothing? A book. A book can give them hope, the power to dream of what life might be.

Give your best friend a book you’ve enjoyed. Give your local school a book you think will inspire kids, or just make them laugh. If you want your kids to be intelligent, give them books: reading creates new neural connections in a child’s brain, by stimulating the growth of new neurons as they imagine the world the writer has put on paper. If you want your kids to be more intelligent, give them more books.

A book is a small, transportable, delightful universe you can keep in your pocket, handbag, glove box or desk drawer, and take out to vanish into when the world is not as you would like it to be.

But mostly, a book is shared. Give a new book. Share an old book. (I love the ones with crabby comments in the margins and chocolate stains – or maybe they are bloodstains – on the pages.)

This Valentine’s Day, give books.

Jackie French

This is the way Ms. Broadmoore describes herself on her Web site Delightful Children's Books, "My name is Amy Broadmoore. I am a mother, library science graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Chapaign, aspiring children’s librarian, former attorney, Cybils judge and founder/instigator of International Book Giving Day. (International Book Giving Day – February 14th – Give a book to a child!) I have three children ages eight, six, and three. I spend my time studying, hangin’ with kids, running, and searching for great picture books."

Emily Drabble wrote about International Book Giving Day for The Guardian a few days ago. "Imagine sitting bored in a doctor's waiting room, stumbling upon the book of your dreams and being allowed to take it home! This is the vision behind International Book Giving Day, which is celebrated this year on 14 February to give all you book-lovers the perfect alternative to Valentine's Day giving."

Your mission, should you accept it, is to give a book to another child – either a friend, someone you know or a complete stranger – and hopefully you'll receive or find one too!

How you go about it is up to you. You could leave a book in the playground, on the seat of a bus, in the classroom or a waiting room; you could pop one into the bag of a friend or donate a book to charity... The only limit is your imagination!

On the International Book Giving Day Facebook page, Ms. Broadmoore reports, "Random House Children's Publishers UK have been gifting copies of Wonder to celebrate International Book Giving Day."

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