World Book Day Comes to Belfast

The John Hewitt Society invited bookworms of all ages to the Waterfront Hall on March 5. Watch a video of the day's events 

World Book Day is celebrated across the world, but in the UK and Ireland it is dedicated to bringing books to children. To that end the John Hewitt Society has arranged for a day of readings from Northern Ireland’s best-known children's and young adult authors at the Belfast Waterfront on March 5.

Parents and children will be able to listen to and meet authors such as Garrett Carr, Sheena Wilkinson, Colin Bateman (taking a break from crime writing), Deirdre Sullivan, Mel Fischer and Lauren Graham. A new book from O’Donnell Press, The Avoca Pony, will also be launched on the day.

The event might be focused on children, but in the evening mature readers can enjoy authors Glenn Patterson and Carlo Gebler In Conversation between 4-5 pm about their books and their writing.

Director of the John Hewitt Society, Tony Kennedy, said: 'World Book Day is another example of the importance of the arts in society and of the current campaign to protect funding for the arts. The Society is grateful to the Arts Council for its continuing support, which enabled us to support World Book Day.’

World Book Day at the Waterfront Hall will include prize draws, a chance to spend World Book Day Tokens and to buy World Book Day special editions. The Bookshop at Queen’s will also have a stall present throughout the day.

Two of the authors taking part in World Book Day at the Waterfront Hall include Garrett Carr and Sheena Wilkinson. Here both talk about the books that made a lasting impression on them as children, and encourage readers of all ages to attend the World Book Day celebrations.

Garrett Carr: Author of The Badness of Ballydog and Lost Dogs.

'I like World Book Day because it takes a relatively solitary activity - reading - and makes it into a group activity. This is especially good for getting kids to read.

'One book I remember reading as a child is Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. The first time I read it I did not read it at all. My sister read a chapter to me every night at bedtime. Apart from a good dose of drama and peril - who knew there could be so much around a sleepy farmyard? – the story is sometimes openly philosophical.

'The rats in the story have become highly skilled and can read. They know they are regarded as thieves by many humans and are made further unhappy by discovering the existence and meaning of the term “rat-race". They plan to find a remote place where they can form their own utopian society.

'I wonder if my warm feelings towards this story come partly from the fact that the book was read to me by my sister, associating it with a nice cosiness. I remember well having the quilt up around my chin while she sat on the edge of the bed with the book in her hand.'

Sheena Wilkinson: Author of Young Adult novel Taking Flight

'I think that anything which promotes reading is great, but it's also important to emphasise the enjoyment of reading all through the year. I know children who read voraciously and others who are very reluctant. And of course they have so many other distractions now, but many of these - like the internet - also involve narrative and story, even if they are not conventional books, so in a way I think the situation is quite complex.

'Schools do a huge amount to promote reading, but if children arrive without a love of story and books they may never catch up. So encouraging parents to read with small children is, in my view, paramount.

'I ate books as a child. I always remember getting my three library books out one summer morning, reading all day, then trying to return them that evening. The librarian wouldn't let me because she wouldn't believe I had read them. We had plenty of books at home but the library was crucial too. I loved pony books, school stories, and good yarns, but then - as now - I wasn't keen on anything fantastical.'

'I'm very worried about the cuts to our library services as they will discourage the very children who might not be able to access books in other ways.'

World Book Day festivities start in the Waterfront Hall on Saturday March 5 at 11am for younger children aged 3–6yrs (must be accompanied by an adult) followed by sessions at 12pm for teenagers (13+yrs) and 2pm for older children (9+yrs).

Full details are on The John Hewitt Society site and tickets for all events should be booked through The Waterfront Hall by calling 028 9033 4455 or by visiting www.waterfront.co.uk.