We don’t really know exactly when William Shakespeare was born; the only written documentation records his baptism on April 26, 1564. Backdating three days from that to give his mother a chance to get up and around yields April 23 as the date on which the Bard’s nativity is traditionally marked. If it’s correct, he died on his 52nd birthday – the same day, incidentally, that Miguel de Cervantes shuffled off this mortal coil.
The real question, though, isn’t when to celebrate, but rather how to celebrate. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated April 23 each year as the International Day of the Book – not for Shakespeare but for Cervantes. In the Catalonia region of Spain, there’s a longstanding tradition of remembering Cervantes by giving a book and a flower to a loved one on April 23.
An international organization called World Book Night takes this delightful practice a step farther by compiling an annual list of several dozen books in various genres, for young readers on up, printing millions of copies and distributing them to volunteer “givers” for free redistribution. Each giver receives 20 copies of one of his or her top three choices from the list, and is then tasked with giving them away to people within the community who need a little nudge to read more. Ideally, it’s all supposed to happen on the 23rd.
Two local pickup points for the free books are Oblong Books & Music in Millerton and Rhinebeck. According to the World Book Night website at www.us.worldbooknight.org/faqs, it’s too late at this point to submit an application to become a new giver for 2014. But you might know some participants who could use a little help giving their allocations of books away on the designated date. Check out the action and find out how you can get involved in the next round by calling (845) 876-0500, e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting https://oblongbooks.com.