Today is a special day for book lovers. Back in 1995, the United Nations chose April 23rd to be the day for the world to celebrate books, authors, and the process of producing and supporting books.
This date was picked because it is the sad anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Also, on this date, over the years, a number of other notable authors were either born or passed away.
World Book Day is important as it reminds us of the great work teachers throughout the world perform to teach our children how to read. This frees our children from the bondage of illiteracy and allows them to participate in the global social dialogue which takes place on the Internet. We also can't forget that in some parts of our world, teachers are harassed or murdered for teaching children, and that some children, especially girls, are prohibited from going to school and learning to read.
The other important idea behind World Book Day is to allow people the freedom to read what books they wish to without interference from their governments or religious leaders. Censorship stifles the promulgation and exchange of new ideas. Only through this sort of exchange can our global society advance into a more enlightened age of freedom, equality, respect for human rights, and social responsibility. These things are the natural enemies of the dictatorial regimes and oppressive religious sects who seek to stamp out free thinking.
Authors, and indeed, all artists, have struggled throughout the ages for the freedom to express their thoughts or create art without interference from their governments. On the other hand, some artists have been privileged to live in a golden age where their governments actually encouraged free thinking and provided endowments to artists.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, books were rather rare. But, even back then, the publication of a new, important book, especially one which challenged the status quo, would bring about heated discussions in parlors and coffee shops. These discussions would overflow into articles and letters to the editor in newspapers. People would express their view about the book. Other people would write a different opinion. Heated debate would occur between authors and the new breed of book reviewers.
This sort of debate continues today, but it has become worrisome. Some authors are challenging society to stifle the freedom of expression of book reviewers. In fact, some very pro-author book reviewers are also trying to snuff out critical book reviews. This goes against the very idea of World Book Day; the idea of increasing literacy and permitting the freedom to express new ideas and present them to society through the medium of books.
As book bloggers, let us not allow those who wish to silence us, or otherwise restrict our very own right to free expression, to win, or to make us lose faith in what we believe.
(Please feel free to re-blog, with proper attribution, of course.)