Last night, our Communications Executive Jenny Hayes flew the Book Aid International banner as she volunteered for World Book Night, giving out copies of Lynda La Plante’s crime thriller Prime Suspect. Here’s how she got on:
I decided to give my 18 copies of Prime Suspect out on an estate in West London, an area where people might not have such frequent access to books. I was ably assisted by two friends, Will and Katie, who took photos and helped carry books. My plan was to simply knock on doors, but on the way I got quite nervous – what if no one opened their doors? Or what if nobody accepted a book? My fears were soon assuaged – as we entered the estate, we encountered a lady returning to her flat from the playground. I took courage, went up to her and offered her a book, telling her about World Book Night. And that’s when the magic of the evening began – she smiled, seemed genuinely surprised and pleased by the unexpected offer of a free book and accepted it with thanks.
We met all sorts of people and met with all sorts of reactions, some wonderfully encouraging, some slightly less so. We bumped into one gentleman as he was leaving his flat. He didn’t want the book, was sorry to be blunt but he only read about World War Two. Not a problem – it was good to know he knew what he liked! Another couple opened the door together, thanked me for the offer of the book but said that reading wasn’t really their thing. I couldn’t persuade them to give it a try, which was a shame. World Book Night’s aim is to encourage people to read for pleasure, but I guess you can’t win every one.
But amidst the ‘no thank yous’ there were many more ‘yes pleases!’ People’s reactions to my offer of a free book, even once I had explained all about World Book Night, were very interesting. I could tell from their initial looks and questions like ‘what’s the catch?’ that there was a lot of mistrust but as soon as they understood that the book was completely free and I didn’t want anything in return, the smiles, the looks of surprise and genuine delight were wonderful. I hope many of them retained that sense of excitement and opened the book after I left . I hope that for some of them this will be the beginning of a new love affair with books. And I hope that because of the unusual way this book came to them that it’ll compel them to pick up another book once they’ve finished this one. And another. And another.
At Book Aid International, we believe that books have the power to change lives – that’s why we sent one million new books to sub-Saharan Africa in 2014. And that’s why I wanted to volunteer for World Book Night – to share that same power with people a little closer to home.