William Shakespeare's 450th birthday on Wednesday also will be the occasion for World Book Night, when over 550,000 books will be distributed free to readers throughout the U.S.
For the third year, “givers” such as Laurie Stephens, owner of Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, will hand out 20 books to groups that may be low or non-readers due to geographical location or means.
“It is not only so much fun, but a great way to promote reading and provide books to people that might not normally have the opportunity to get one,” said Ms. Stephens, who bought the shop two years ago. She also participated in World Book Night when she lived in Dallas.
“There are over 30 titles to chose from, and givers select their top three choices. They also have to say how they will distribute the books,” she said.
World Book Night began in 2011 in the United Kingdom. This year, many bookstores and “givers” will be participating as will local public libraries such as Avalon, Butler, Northern Tier and Mt. Lebanon.
The books distributed by givers are specially printed editions. They're paperback and very uniform, so there is no mistaking them for the editions sold by booksellers. The authors and publishers waive all profits.
The number of books was set at 20 — easy enough for the givers to pick up and distribute, and just enough to make a difference. Typical places for distribution are schools, hospitals, prisons, nursing home facilities and parks.
Ms. Stephens will be distributing “The Tipping Point,” by Malcolm Gladwell from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday at Fifth Avenue Place, Downtown.
“There are a lot of people who pass through there. This is such a great book about decisions and I think the perfect book for the population that I will come in contact with there,” she said.
Each year, givers vote for their choices for the books. A few other titles in this year’s distribution list are "Kitchen Confidential,” by Anthony Bourdain, “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” by Diane Ackerman, and “Hoot,” by Carl Hiaasen.
“Hoot” is the book that giver Alyce Amery Spencer of Hampton chose to distribute. Ms. Spencer learned about the project through the Mystery Lovers’ newsletter and has participated since then. She distributes them through her friend, Candy Luniewski, a first-grade teacher at Fort Crawford Elementary School in New Kensington-Arnold School District.
“I love to read and I want to promote that love of reading to the next generation,” Ms. Spencer said.
Ms. Spencer selects the books from those available for children and visits the students each year, taking along treats such as cookies and bookmarks.
“I tell them how the idea started in England and it commemorates Shakespeare’s birthday. They are so enthusiastic and I get lovely thank you notes after they read the books,” she said.
The books are given to the third-grade students and the teachers incorporate them into the reading curriculum, according to Ms. Luniewski.
“The students keep the books at school while they read them and do different activities with them, then they get to take them home and keep them,” she said.
Ms. Luniewski said her fellow teachers love getting the books to use with their students.
“They really get to dig into a novel with their students and use it in different ways in the classroom,” she said.
Last year, Ms. Spencer gave the students “Because of Winn-Dixie” and the book was a big hit with the students, Ms. Luniewski said.
“After they read the book, they got to watch the movie and compare them. It was funny because many of them decided the book was better than the movie and that surprised them,” she said.
Ms. Spencer was so enthusiastic about the project, she persuaded Ms. Luniewski to become a giver.
“I’m going to give poetry books to our K-3 reading coach. Poetry has become part of the core curriculum and she will really be able to utilize these books,” she said.
Ms. Luniewski of West Deer has seen the effects firsthand of the outcome of World Book Night and looks forward to her new role as a giver.
“It you have a book, that opens the opportunity to read. When one of our students said, ‘Look, I have my own book,’ it made all of us smile,” she said.