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April 27, 2012 Readers Talk About Their World Book Night Experiences

Posted by tom

World Book Night was a huge success! Our readers from across the country told us about their experiences throughout the week on our Facebook page and in emails to Carol. We are happy to share comments from 17 of them, along with photos from some. Reading these stories made us realize how many in this country are without a book to read. For a look at just how farflung the book givers were, see this map:

Merry A. Cooper from Danville, KY

Just wanted to share my story about my experience with World Book Night 2012 giving away THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak. I chose as my book recipients a rural middle school 7th grade class in K, Garrard County Middle School, Lancaster, KY. My daughter is also a student in this class. The kids were very welcoming as well as a very enthusiastic teacher.

Ms. Rachel Russell welcomed me to her class and told me how grateful she was that I had chosen her class to give the books to. When I initially contacted her I found out that there were 25 students in the class and I was promised 20 books for WBN. After purchasing enough extra books I was very excited about handing them out to the kids.

To make a long story short the kids were really excited about the book. We had lots of class discussion about what the book was about and their expectations of the book. I could not believe that these 12 and 13 year olds were willing to talk about reading with me. We talked about other books they were interested in. It was truly an eye-opening experience. I spent the whole class period with them. As a surprise I brought along a sweet treat just to stay on their good side :) .  Overall, I look forward to being a giver again next year. What a truly amazing blessing it is to share my love of reading to a group of kids who may one day be the catalyst for other young readers. Thank you for the opportunity to share my story and my experience.

Cathy from Allentown, PA

I was a proud giver of books for the 1st U.S. World Book Night. I gave my 20 copies of WINTERGIRLS to a classroom of reluctant readers in a 9th grade English class at our local high school. This school is in Allentown, Pa which is a low income, culturally diverse city. Through my Kiwanis Club, we have financially supported Mr. Boyd, a teacher who has developed a program to purchase books for the students that will engage the kids. I took the books to the classroom and explained about World Book Night and how I got the books for them for free. They gave me a round of applause!!  I picked up the books at my local Barnes and Noble where I am a part-time book seller. Needless to say, I love books :)

Maureen from Wantagh, NY

I learned about becoming a book ambassador for World Book Night through the Bookreporter newsletter. As a reading teacher, and an avid reader, I was immediately intrigued. I thought a bit about who I would want to bring books to, and I concluded that a nursing home for the elderly would be the "just right" location. The folks living in the residence are not able to go out on their own, and having multiple copies of a fascinating book, might spark some great conversations among residents.

Picking up 20 copies of THE KITE RUNNER was as easy as pie! My local Barnes & Noble's had the books boxed up, along with bookmarks, and a pin for me to wear. Then off I drove to the residence, and was happy to deliver the books to the residence, and patients!Thanks for informing me of this very worthwhile experience!

Frances from Silver Spring, MD

I gave away I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS by Maya Angelou.  Let me tell you how hard it is to give away something for FREE.  And a book, no less. Folks look at you like you're some kinda political, religious, philanthropic, scam-running crazed person. A book?  For free?  Must be up to something.  Finally, after about 10 offers, a woman finally took the book with a tentative and skeptical "thanks".

The reactions in giving away the rest of the pile of books ranged from skepticism to surprise to thankfulness and whatever other emotions are in between.  There were a lot who said "no, thanks", just shook their head, or tried to avoid eye contact with me.  But I did find some people who accepted my gift.  One woman actually turned back and asked if she could have another one. A guy waiting in his car asked if he could have one and wanted to know more about the project.  Someone asked me if I wrote the book - wow, don't I wish!  One man took it, looked appreciative, but admitted that he might not get around to reading it; I told him that was okay, maybe he would.  One guy asked what it was about, nodded when I told him, said thanks and tucked it in his messenger bag.  One young woman looked at it and before walking off asked me, just to be sure, "can I keep it?"  She smiled as she held onto it and headed along her way.

You can read more from Frances about her World Book Night experience on her blog here.

Marsha from Northern California

I gave out THE BOOK THIEF World Book Night at the County Fair Mall in Woodland, California. I chose the book because of its cross-over abilities with teens and adults, and as it turned out, it was a good thing! I saw as many teenagers as I did adults—and I was thrilled to introduce them all to this great story of how reading can inspire! (Not bad to have a little meta-message going on as well…) Two of my neighborhood book club members gave out copies of THE GLASS CASTLE and THE KITE RUNNER so we had a good selection. Here’s a picture of our table. I had a banner made to help flag down the traffic—and don’t you love the table cloth from my library book club?

Judy from Dayton, Ohio

I gave out THE THINGS THEY CARRIED at the library at Sinclair Community College. A fellow co-worker was also chosen and handed out THE KITE RUNNER. It was great to see the responses, everything from "I have read that book and loved it too" to "are you sure it's free?" Only a few said, "no thanks". It was a great experience and I hope to do it again next year.

Lori from Flower Mound, Texas

I received 20 copies of THE BOOK THIEF. I handed a couple out to people I know that don't read and they promised me they would read it. The rest I took to Gideon Math & Reading center. I explained what World Book Night is and asked the owner if she would like to have them for her students that don't read much or don't  like to read. She was very grateful for the donation. I know when I was young I needed help with my reading skills. I did not like to read and when my parents found out I had trouble, I was forced to read 15 min. a day. I've been in a book club for 10 years. I can't stand to not have a book me now. It was fun to be able to share the love of reading.



Lynn from Falcon Heights, MN

I was lucky enough to be one of the book givers for World Book Night giving away Q IS FOR QUARRY by Sue Grafton. I stationed myself (with a friend) outside of a regional grocery chain.  My 20 books were gone in about twenty minutes. Many of the recipients have “English as a second language”. They were especially pleased to be receiving free books in English.

One woman had read about the giveaway in the St. Paul Pioneer Press that morning and was so excited to be part of the giveaway that she was jumping up and down!  She stayed and talked for quite a while about books and the giveaway.

Another woman said that she was not a reader but was willing to give it a try.  She would pass along the book once she was done. When giving a mom a book, I felt badly that I didn’t have anything to give to her little boy.  He told me that “It’s OK… I have books at home!”

It was a wonderful night and I was floating on air as I made my way home.  I hope to do this again next year. I would think about going to a soup kitchen or a group house setting for that give away!

Leslie from Carmel, Indiana

I gave out BEL CANTO Monday evening at the Dollar Tree store in North Indianapolis. Everyone was pleased once they realized it was a real novel and I wasn't a crazy person. One lady said that I made her day....I hope they do read the book (it's not the easiest to read) and that they pass it on.

Norah from Brookline, MA

I gave out copies of HOUSEKEEPING by Marilynne Robinson in Harvard Square. There were a lot of international tourists milling around, but they were actually more receptive to getting a free book than the Americans were! I got asked numerous times if I was the author (I wish!), and it was a little hard to get out the message that this was a legitimate, published, award-winning novel that we just happened to be giving away for free as part of World Book Night (some people just don't trust a "free lunch"!). But when we explained the concept of World Book Night (to the people who gave us a chance to do so), they thought it seemed like a really great initiative.


Marge from Silver Spring, MD

I am a 63 year old white woman with an Asian grandson in a backpack who set out at 4PM on a rainy Monday afternoon to be a Book Giver. I chose the Spanish edition of THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO to give out at the local 7/11 where many Hispanic day workers hang out waiting for work or, in this case, after work, a day with no work, or waiting for a ride.

Attached are 3 typical pictures of people who wanted the  book. I gave it to 19 men and 1 woman first asking if they read Spanish and showing the title.

At first a few didn't believe that the book was in Spanish since I only speak English. Some didn't believe it was free and many spoke little English. I showed them my button and the place on the cover that said it was World Book Night. I encouraged them to read it and then give it to a friend.

I didn't chat too much other than talk about the story but loved the looks of interest and feelings of possession I received. There's nothing better than owning a new book.




Kavi from Hillsville, VA 

I live in a very small town-rural area where not much happens each day!  I gave all my copies of MY SISTER’S KEEPER by Jodi Picoult away last night!  I was supposed to give my books away a ballgame at the local high school, but they had water problems earlier in the day and closed.  The ballgames were canceled so no one was there when I went! So I went to our local library and sat in the foyer to give the books away. Thank goodness the library is open until 8 PM on Mondays!  I met a set of grandparents who were checking out books for their granddaughter and  who took a  book saying they did not have a lot of time to read for themselves.  Also met a young mother who was checking out books for her young son and is looking forward to finding time to read MY SISTER’S KEEPER!  Then I met a former first grade student who had never read any of Picoult's books.  Several of the books were given to younger adults who came to the library to use the computers there and went home very pleased about getting a free book.  None of the book recipients had  heard about World Book Night except two who read a very brief article in the Roanoke, VA (about 1 1/2 hours from here) newspaper that morning.  I had 2 copies left when the library closed and gave them to two waitresses at Shoney's where DH & I went for dinner.  I am so tickled that I had the opportunity to be involved with this project!  I still have a great big smile on my face this morning!

Lois from Maitland, Florida

I spoke before a large group of seniors at the Jewish Community Center in Maitland, Florida. The first thing I did was explain the purpose of World Book Night and the hoped for outcome.

Next I briefly explained a bit about the book, THE BRIEF AND IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS. Everyone had questions and I explained the this is a nonfiction book with a great storyline and that our book club at the JCC read it and loved the discussion that followed.

Needless to say everyone wanted a copy of the book.  I tried to limit its distribution to those people who hadn’t been reading much lately. But everyone who received a book, promised to pass it on. I believe it was successful.



Denise from Rockville, MD

I had such a fun World Book Night experience, and would guess that was a general theme. I went to pick up my book, one of my favorite books on earth --- A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, by John Irving --- at a reception at Politics and Prose bookstore.  The bookstore had a sweet reception; I had the chance to talk to many other book givers, who had fairly elaborate giving plans.

My plan was simple, and as the date approached, I worried it might be too simple.  I just had a place in mind, and hoped the rest would fall in place. I planned to bring my books to our town square area; it is anchored by a library.  I chose 7PM  as my giveaway time because that is high traffic time in the square.  Students closing up studying, adult learners’ meeting tutors, little kids returning books and attending story time, people visiting the local stores and restaurants.

My husband came with  me.  I worried about skepticism; I got none! The first person I approached listened to me, was surprised that there was no donation expected.  He happily took his book, and tucked under his arm.  And we were off.

The books flew into the happy arms of happy recipients……one young woman came racing out of the library, after talking to a friend who had just gone in with the book, saying “WHO IS GIVING OUT JOHN IRVING BOOKS?” One woman said the book would help her learn to read in English; another said he always wanted to read a John Irving book, but had never had the chance.  Another told me that he worked on interfaith issues, so was drawn by the first sentence in the book about Christianity.

I met some lovely people, and had so much fun.  By 7:20, we were out of books!

Cristina Vazquez from Coral Gables, FL

In this photo I am at Prana Yoga in Coral Gables giving out books to Natasha Dalani and Erika Mora. I gave out THE POISONWOOD BIBLE in different locations around the Gables area. Most people were happy, saying that they were looking for something to read or that I had given them a treasure. A college student said it would be a great break from reading stuff for school. Some people we approached were hesitant when we said it was a free book, they thought something would be attached to it, one even asked if we belonged to a religious group, but I can understand, the title THE POISONWOOD BIBLE didn't help! Overall, I can't wait to participate once again.

Pat from Midway City, CA

The day was unusual to say the least. My partner had to go into hospital for tests that turned out to be longer than expected. I took a few books --- KINDRED by Octavia E. Butler --- with me and gave them out to nurses, teenage volunteers and hospital workers. There was a short time when I went home to walk our dog and recharge with the Nectar of the Gods, coffee. I then loaded the rest of the books and a table so that I would be ready to give them out at our local mall after dropping my partner off at home. Well, when I arrived back at the hospital a few more books went into my bag. Before we finally left at the end of her stay, I had given out half of the books.

When I arrived at the mall I put the rest of the books in a bag to pass out. At the mall it took me less than an hour to pass out the other half and when I left, I glanced over to the first person that I had given the book to, she was deep into it. It was a wonderful way to give someone else the ability to read about different  ideas, travel and see the world through imagination. What a great feeling to give these books out. Everyone both at the hospital and the mall said thank you.

Carol from Columbia, CT

April 23rd dawned gloomy with lingering rain but the weather couldn’t dampen my spirits. My excitement in being a World Book Night giver had been building for weeks and finally my day had come. I was thrilled for the opportunity to spread my love of reading with my community in the form of THE BOOK THIEF by Marcus Zusak.  I chose The Book Thief as I had read many of the other wonderful books but wanted a chance to read something new. I had heard such wonderful things about THE BOOK THIEF and thought it was an all ages book that would appeal to both men and women. After reading it, I know why it has won awards and been a hit with so many.

Columbia, CT is a small town with few local businesses.  Originally I thought our landfill might be the place as so many people in town make use of that  service. Unfortunately they are closed on Mondays. We have a few breakfast stops; closed on Mondays. Someone thought the package store might not be the  best place so I finally decided on our US Post Office.  Closed on Sundays, I figured Monday morning should do a brisk business.  I rounded up an oversize poster I had made, the books, a small table for display, my library's bookmarks and my library business card (this proved to be a good idea) and headed off  with great expectations.

After setting up, I waited for my first prospect and kept repeating my brief pitch in my mind. I knew I had only a  few moments to capture my prey. My nerves were jangling and I had to keep taking deep breaths to calm myself. As the first person approached I could already see the "what is she selling look on his face" but I jumped in and asked him if he would stop after conducting his business and give me a few moments to tell him why I was there. He said "No! I'm way too busy and working besides." Thank you...that's my reply. Not a good start to my hour and a half spent giving away my books.

Things I learned, some things I heard, some things I was asked...More men than women go to the post office on a Monday morning in my small town. Men are more apt to stop and talk unless they are working, are picking up mail for our local car dealer or are septic tank cleaners! More men actually took the book in the end. Many people looked at me and wondered what was I selling. I could see some thinking I belonged to some religious organization.

"What's the catch? Is anything really free?" "I don't have time to read." "Sounds like a great story." "Oh, hi Carol, are you here to sell the library expansion?" The subject matter is too old for my 7 year old, but I have a 20 year old niece that should like it." "How long do I have to read the book before reporting back to the publisher?" "I love to read but my sister doesn't so she's getting this book." "I never heard of World Book Night but what a great idea!" and many, many, thank you's. I told all to be certain to thank the promoters and the publishers.

Regarding the skeptics, my contact information and the written introduction by the publishers explaining World Book Night seemed to ease most concerns as to my intentions.

Though it was harder than I thought to give away my books, the experience was fun and as I thought about it throughout my day and hear feedback from my fellow givers, I feel privileged to have participated in World Book Night 2012.