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Novel ideas: how brands and retailers are celebrating World Book Day 2024

Established more than 25 years ago to promote the love of books and reading, World Book Day has become something of a phenomenon. The annual celebration – which sees a special selection of £1 books gifted to kids and families via bookshops and major retailers – not only offers every child the chance to have a book of their own, but also marks an opportunity for retailers, brands and licensees to boost sales and embrace new touchpoints.

The event makes headlines every year. World Book Day’s 2023 Impact Report reveals last year’s celebration involved over 4,000 booksellers and saw the biggest uplift in sales of children’s books (+35%) of any week of the year, including Christmas. The event achieved 713K social media impressions and generated 3,000 pieces of media coverage, while #readingforpleasure and #worldbookday both trended on Twitter.

This year’s World Book Day (7 March) is set to follow suit. Official WBD events slated for 2024 include The Great Big Footy and Booky Quiz, hosted by the National Literacy Trust, featuring Premier League, Football League and Women’s Super League players as well as top authors; a partnership with the BBC, including a BBC Teach Live Lesson on CBBC and a deeper content partnership with Tiny Happy People, and a McDonald’s promotion, with the fast food giant giving away £1/€1.50 book tokens with World Book Day-themed Happy Meals, along with either one of 10 Mr. Men. Little Miss plush toys or one of four books in the Mr. Men Little Miss ‘Discover You’ series.

WBD3McDonald’s and Mr. Men Little Miss brand owner Sanrio have frequently collaborated to promote World Book Day. “World Book Day and Mr. Men Little Miss share common values,” explains Sanrio’s Alastair McHarrie, senior licensing director and Mr. Men Little Miss brand leader. “The charity’s mission to promote reading for pleasure aligns perfectly with our brand, with both aimed at enriching children’s lives and equipping them with essential skills and attitudes for success.

“This partnership is crucial for us, as it not only allows us to reach our target audience beyond our usual channels but also extends our reach to children who might not typically have access to bookshops and libraries. Importantly, these efforts take place in a joyful and playful environment where kids can engage and socialise. We are an ideal partner because while Happy Meals usually feature branded toys and unbranded books, in our case, we provide a branded front-list title, fully engaging consumers.”

WBD4Alastair continues: “Joining initiatives for World Book Day has become an essential part of our commitment to encouraging children to read. In addition, participating in campaigns like those for World Book Day not only enhances a company’s brand perception but also provides an opportunity to elevate target audiences. This is particularly crucial when your products are designed for children. However, achieving success in such endeavours demands creativity. We strategically partner with globally relevant brands to create more sophisticated and refined projects. This approach has significantly expanded our media exposure and, consequently, our reference market. While it does require creative thinking, the payoff is substantial – it strengthens the trust relationship with consumers.”

Likewise, for Ben Drury, ceo and co-founder of Yoto – the official audio partner of WBD for the second year – working with World Book Day is “hugely important”.

“The partnership is the first of its kind for World Book Day and it acknowledges the part aural storytelling and audiobooks specifically have to play in improving reading skills and building a love of reading in children,” Ben says. “Audiobooks are proven to support children’s emotional intelligence and mental wellbeing, improve comprehension and widen children’s access to books.”

WBD5To celebrate World Book Day 2024, Yoto is making a selection of audiobooks available for free via the Yoto App, including chapters from children’s classics The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter), The Gruffalo’s Child (Julia Donaldson), Fantastic Mr Fox (Roald Dahl) and The Enchanted Wood (Enid Blyton); there will also be free stories available in full from the Yoto Originals collection, including BrainBots Dinosaurs: Diplodocus. In addition, Yoto will be donating £1 from the sale of a selection of Yoto Cards sold during the World Book Day period (15 February – 31 March) to further World Book Day’s mission.

Supporting the partnership will be a flurry of marketing and media activity. “We’ll be sending dedicated emails to our subscribers, sharing a range of social media assets with our online communities and enjoying partnerships with various influencers, asking them to share how Yoto helps their children with their love of reading and enjoying stories, which is always very inspiring,” says Ben.

For Paul Black, PR and brand director of Andersen Press – whose David McKee title Elmer and the Patchwork Story has been selected as one of this year’s 12 £1 books – World Book Day is a vital initiative, as well as a key event in the publishing calendar.

WBD2“An estimated 500,000 children don’t own a book, and one in five children say their £1 World Book Day book is the first they’ve owned,” he says. “World Book Day’s focus on including those children who may not have books at home they call their own, fits with Elmer’s message of celebration and inclusivity.

“World Book Day is a point on the annual calendar now, and gives us an opportunity to shout about all of our books, but especially those ones that are easily accessible in terms of costumes, filmed readings, activities, and so on. Every major retailer will have a World Book Day unit and selection, so it’s a great time in the year to celebrate our offering when we know all schools and families are gearing up to be especially booky.”

Andersen Press has a “really exciting” celebrity influencer partnership lined-up for World Book Day this year, Paul says, with the celebrity sharing Elmer and the Patchwork Story on their social channels alongside some of the publisher’s latest Elmer publishing and merchandise from licensees.

“World Book Day in itself is an incredible in-store activation, and this year there will be an Elmer presence [via the £1 book] across all retailers, which in itself has allowed our licensees to get new clothing product and plush into a range of supermarkets, alongside our regular dress-up offering.”

WBD1While brands might be rightly keen to celebrate a love of reading on World Book Day, the event’s charitable purpose must be put front and centre, advises Paul. “I think it’s important not to logo-slap or bandwagon-jump. World Book Day’s mission is to foster a love of reading in all children, and that has to come first and foremost from all partners. I’d suggest when sharing content, share World Book Day’s mission, and educate audiences on the free book offer. Rather than always selling something, give people something for free – maybe a video of a reading, or an activity sheet or something new. In the past, we have put out videos of some Elmer titles on social media and shared activities and ways of making your own dress-up at home, as well as sharing what’s available in shops.”

From Elmer to the other elephant in the room: the dreaded World Book Day costume. While some parents delight in putting together elaborate home-made outfits for their children to wear to school or nursery, there is a huge market for ready-made costumes aimed at time-pressed families, with retailers including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Matalan and Lidl offering designated World Book Day POS displays in the run-up to the event.

“Here at the Amscan and the further Wonder group, we have been delighted to be the official partners of World Book Day 2024,” comments Lisa Norris, commercial director, UK and Ireland. “We are excited to see the charity grow yet again this year, with multiple collaborations and campaigns and are thrilled to be partnering with our selection of costumes suitable for the occasion.

“Role-play learning and storytelling are essential to a child’s growth, and it is so important to us that with our costume selection, we can be part of this fantastic cause, with its key objective of changing lives through a love of books and reading. We look forward to planning 2025.”

Cassie Chadderton, ceo at World Book Day, concludes: “World Book Day, our charity’s annual celebration of reading for pleasure, offers huge opportunity for both retailers and licensees to get involved, have fun and raise funds to support our mission to help all children experience the life-changing benefits of reading. World Book Day and its well-loved brand are an exciting prospect for collaboration.”


World Book Day 2024 takes place on Thursday 7 March. For more information visit

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