Over half a million children from all over the world will gather to watch authors including Francesca Simon, Anthony Horowitz, Lauren Child and Tony Robinson celebrate the joy of reading on Thursday's World Book Day. Dubbed the "Biggest Book Show on Earth", the hour-long event will take place in Queen Elizabeth Hall in London at 11am on 7 March, and will be broadcast live to cinemas around the UK, as well as shown live online. Children's author and television presenter Robinson will host the event, Horrid Henry creator Simon will show how to bring characters to life, and Alfie author Shirley Hughes will explain the secrets of illustration. "The target this year is for three quarters of a million children," said Robinson. "I'm just about to go and sit in a quiet place and start to think about what I'm going to say. It's the largest audience I've ever played to." "I'll be talking about how to capture your ideas and plan your writing," added Tom Gates author Liz Pichon, who will also be appearing on stage, along with Charlie & Lola creator Child and Cathy Cassidy. Last year half a million children from more than 75 countries watched the show, and organisers said that over 550,000 have already registered this year, with many thousands more expected to sign up by Thursday.
As well as events in schools, libraries and bookshops around the country – many of which will see children dressing up as their favourite literary characters – World Book Day will also be marked by the release of eight new books, which cost £1 or can be exchanged for the £1 World Book Day book token given to each child by their school. The books include Hughes's Alfie's Shop, Simon's Horrid Henry's Guide to Perfect Parents, Horowitz's The Diamond Brothers in… Two of Diamonds and Pichon's Tom Gates: Best Book Day Ever! (So Far). "Most schools these days almost have a World Book Week, with events going on throughout the week, book fairs, dressing up – everyone gets involved," said Pichon. "Anything which encourages children to pick up a book of any kind is fantastic. It really makes a difference – gets them to try out something different." "I've always been very passionate about children's writing – I was an avid reader as a kid, then when I had my kids it was wonderful to have that whole world of Joan Aiken and Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett, which wasn't there when I was a kid," said Robinson. "I was still reading second world war late imperial books, like Biggles, so to have this new, really sophisticated, profoundly psychological and well written fiction was fantastic. And now I'm coming to it all again, with my grandchildren."
Robinson said he believes there is "something so suitable to the psyche, the brain of the human being about the written narrative, that I am pretty confident that the more we are able to expose children to the story in all its wonder, the more they will digest it and it will become as much a part of them as breathing or walking." An app aimed at young adults will also be launched on World Book Day, featuring stories from top teen authors, including Chris Ryan, Patrick Ness and Alex Scarrow, along with some aspiring young writers from the Movellas online writing community, chosen after nominations from their peers. Kirsten Grant, director of World Book Day, said, "The new app and our partnership with Movellas is just one way of getting great book content to young adult readers. Delivering content digitally and talking to teens in the spaces they like to visit and socialise also allows us to offer a taste of the brilliant fiction that's out there and hopefully, turn more young people on to reading."