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The World's biggest celebration of reading for pleasure, World Book Day, returns this Thursday (March 1).

This year it features a stellar line-up of authors, illustrators and events across the country for its 21st celebrations.

The charity behind the event has a mission to celebrate reading for pleasure and encourage children and young people to read and love books.

Last year, more than £650,000 was raised for charity by World Book Day and over 1.2 million £1 book tokens were redeemed, enabling one in four children to ‘purchase’ their first ever book.

It was first marked in the UK in 1997, in response to an increasing concern over poor reading and writing standards in children.

It is now a global phenomenon.

Research by the National Literacy Trust has indicated that 89.5% of children are aware of World Book Day and that, in 2016, 60% of children were inspired to read more by the celebration.

The 11 official £1 World Book Day books for 2018 cater for a range of ages and the titles chosen offer a message of inclusivity, through the authors, illustrations, stories and a wide assortment of characters, enabling young readers to see the world in which they live reflected between the pages.

For preschool children, the award-winning Kes Gray and Roald Dahl Funny Prize-winning illustrator Jim Field have teamed up to deliver a new title in their bestselling Oi series, the hilarious rhyming picture book Oi Goat!

This year's World Book Day has the theme ‘Share a Story’, aimed at mobilising the nation to ‘TAKE 10’ and recognise the positive impact that reading together for only 10 minutes a day can have on a child’s outcome.

Parents, teachers, Early Years practitioners and children are encouraged to go beyond dressing up to reignite a love of shared reading and the sense of wellbeing that it brings.

It's a timely initiative as new research has revealed the number of pre-school children being read to daily at home has fallen by a fifth since 2013.

The annual Understanding of the Children’s Book Consumer survey, by Nielsen Book Research, interviewed almost 1,600 parents of children from birth to 13 years old found that while 69% of pre-school children were read to daily in 2013, that figure has dropped to just 51%.

Publisher Egmont, which co-funded the research, said the decline correlated with an increase of almost a fifth in the proportion of toddlers watching online video content daily, and warned the 'steep decline' in reading to young children 'signalled a significant threat to child development, with potential long-term social impact'.

There's clear evidence that reading has a whole host of benefits for children as they grow up.

Those who read for enjoyment every day not only perform better in reading tests than those who don’t, but also develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures.

In fact reading for pleasure is more likely to determine whether a child does well at school than their social or economic background.