Today is World Book Day, an event designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and is marked in over 100 countries around the globe. Bringing together publishers, booksellers, schools and other parties to work together to promote books and reading for the personal enrichment and enjoyment of all, one of the main aims of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own.
In Windows we have always stood for people that Do. Whether that’s enabling you with an OS to help you do your homework or file your taxes. Windows is for people that Do, as people that Do move the world forward. While reading is something that we possibly take a little for granted, it is probably the most important skill we all develop as it opens the door to unlimited learning. It is this initial step in the education process that acts as the foundation for all other development and learning, and books can then reveal whole other worlds of knowledge, wonder, emotion and adventure that are just waiting to be discovered. So while it may seem to be a relatively small, mechanical first step, it remains with us for the rest of our lives and really does give us the opportunity to #DoGreatThings every day.
To celebrate World Book Day here at Microsoft, we explored the idea of whether children really understand the importance of reading, or whether they simply think it is important because their teachers or parents told them it was. We asked the children of some our team members about their favourite books, and what it is they like most about reading!
As you’ll see from the video, children do have an understanding of the importance of reading and the response from Luke, 7, sums it up perfectly. When asked “Do you think reading is important?”, without hesitation or even having to think of an answer, his natural response was:
“Yeah. Because you can learn things from reading.”
With all areas of learning at young age, it’s important that they are able to engage with subject matter, and stories are fundamentally essential to this particular process. With this in mind, the role of teachers and parents is crucial in recognising and identifying the types of stories and books that each child has an affinity with. As children begin to make sense of words, the words can become lines, the lines can become pages, and the pages eventually turn into books. Bedtime stories and reading short passages from an early age may seem like small things, it’s these small things that can lead to Great Things.
#DoGreatThings doesn’t just consider the people that Do Great Things, but also the People who aspire to Do Great Things, and reading and learning is fundamental to people doing great things and improving their education.
Books as a vehicle for social change
The invention and widespread use of the first printing presses in the fifteenth century gave greater access to the written word, and set the stage for a gradual but important transformation of societal literacy. While it took until the 19th century for books to become readily available to all ages and levels of society, the opportunity to learn how to read - and for that matter, write – was no longer so heavily limited, and accumulated human knowledge could be spread further and faster than ever before.
Fast forward 500 years to the present day, and once again we are living in an age of transformation, whereby now we have instant access to an incredible amount of books via not only the printed word, but also via mobile devices and shared digital libraries. Each of us now has the potential to read any number of books – in one format or another – wherever we are in the world.
As the way in which we read books evolves, so does the way in which we learn to consume this information. The technological advances of recent years have heralded an age of change within education, not only from the stance of how devices and connectivity have had an impact in classrooms, but also in terms of the broader approach to pedagogy. We’ve already established how important literacy is in order to #DoGreatThings, and technology has also affected significant changes as to how teachers, parents and children themselves can tackle the fundamental task of learning to read.
Reading in the digital age
There are lots of apps in the Windows Store designed for reading, and learning to read, but to give you an idea, :
Some of the new educational titles from Sago Sago include…
The Worldreader mobile app also offers thousands of free books, and is available through Windows Store!
You can also watch video about the digital literacy campaign being run by Skype in the Classroom, which involves connecting classes of students to authors.
Reading at Microsoft
While most people conclude their ‘formal’ education either in their teens, or in the case of university graduates, at some point in their 20s, people around the world of all ages still learn new things every day through the books they read. Whether it’s an opinion on historical events that they’ve read in a library book written 20 years ago, or the latest medical research findings published in an eBook that someone reads on their tablet or mobile device, people continue to increase their knowledge by reading books. The format via which we read books may be evolving, but the cognitive skill of reading – looking at letters and words and being able to make sense of what they mean - is the same now as it was at the dawn of human language.
Here at Microsoft UK we’re incredibly fortunate to have our own on-site library for employees, known as The UK Learning Centre. It has been in existence for almost 15 years and has been managed throughout that time by librarian, David Stewart, who has recently been assisted by the arrival of Masters student Natasha Chowdory. Not just a place for finding books, The UK Learning Centre provides business-critical information and resources on a wide variety of topics supporting employees’ daily information needs and aiding employee development.
We caught up with David and Natasha to ask them about World Book Day and some of their favourite books… See if you can guess who said what!
“My favourite book, as a child, was Danny the Champion of the World; Roald Dahl has probably done more for the promotion of reading amongst children than any other author, and that love of reading often stays with people as they grow up. My children love books and reading and have done so almost from the day they were born; reading to them before they go to sleep has been a part of the daily routine throughout their childhoods. World Book Day is a fantastic initiative and I love the way that schools get fully immersed in it. If pushed for a favourite book of all time, my fiction choice would probably be High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, the reasons for which are obvious to anyone who knows me ;-), although I would probably pick my ultimate favourite to be Bodyline Autopsy: The Full Story of the Most Sensational Test Cricket Series - Australia V England 1932-33 by David Frith. My route into my job as librarian at Microsoft was via a Masters in Information Management (Librarianship) and being surrounded by books and information resources and being able to help a wide variety of people with a wide variety of information requests on a daily basis makes the job very rewarding. I wouldn’t still be here after nearly 15 years if it wasn’t!”
“One of the best things about working in the Learning Centre is encouraging people to read books that they may not necessarily choose for themselves. World Book Day always introduces me to new titles and lets me revisit old classics and it’s wonderful to see schools and public libraries getting involved to get people reading. I grew up with reading and as I’ve got older it’s one of my favourite ways to relax. I can’t say that I have a favourite, as to me, books are like music – there’s a different title for every mood. I like Young Adult novels (Katniss Everdeen) I like a good thriller (Gone Girl) and my book of 2014 was How to Kill Your Boss by Shane Kuhn. One day I’ll finish all the Game of Thrones books. I’m currently working towards my Masters in Library Studies and the more I learn, the more I appreciate how books and, more importantly, the information they contain, have never been more relevant to our society.”
What’s your favourite book?
There’s nothing quite like losing yourself in a good book, and as any avid reader knows, peer recommendation is one of the best ways for people to discover new titles and authors. With this in mind, we'd like to ask you all what your favourite book is, or perhaps which one has inspired you the most to #DoGreatThings. Please leave a comment below telling us which books have stuck with you the most, or what you have gone on to do after being inspired by the actions of the characters in those stories. You can also tweet us on @microsofteduk or @WindowsUK with your favourite books – just remember to use the hashtags #DoGreatThings and #WorldBookDay 🙂