23 April is a symbolic date for world literature for on this date in 1616, Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.
It was a natural choice for the UNESCO's General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity. In this respect, UNESCO created both the World Book and Copyright Day and the UNESCO Prize for Children's and Young People's Literature in the Service of Tolerance.
The World Book Day (WBD) national celebrations in South Africa are coordinated by the Centre for the Book, an Outreach Unit of the National Library of South Africa, mandated to promote a culture of reading, writing and publishing in all local languages and easy access to books for all. The objectives of World Book Day Celebrations are:
- To raise awareness about the importance of reading
- To reach out and give people access to books
- To educate people to take care for their library facilities
- To celebrate books.