My thoughts on World Book Day

World Book Day

Maybe it’s because this is the first year I’ve had a school age child, but I’ve never heard so much fuss about World Book Day as I have today. There seems to have been a huge amount of chat along the lines of - “If you’re spending more on a costume than on a book maybe you should rethink what you’re doing”. Which, quite frankly, I think is incredibly catty, and I don’t necessarily agree with.

Yes, the point of World Book Day is to encourage reading in children. Unfortunately, not all children have access to books and reading materials at home, and not all children have someone to sit and read with them on a regular basis. (That is NOT a dig at any parents, guardians or carers. Just an acknowledgement that I’m in an extremely privileged position where I can provide my children with books, and I am able to share books with them on a daily basis. Not all families have that privilege.) And that is exactly why events such as World Book Day, and charities such as BookTrust exist.

However, I’m also a firm believer in the idea that there are so many different ways to tell a story, and to enjoy storytelling with children. I have read to my children every day since they were born. They enjoy stories, and frequently ask to snuggle up and look at a book together. Now my daughter is learning to read, I get the best of both as she can read to me too! I am well aware that isn’t the case for everyone though. Not all children like, or are able, to sit still and focus on a storybook. But surely this shouldn’t mean they can’t enjoy stories too? This could come in the form of dressing up, role play, nursery rhymes and songs, imaginative play or simply talking about a single picture in a book (the Where’s Wally? books are excellent for this).  

There are also no rules about dressing up for World Book Day. The main aim of World Book Day is to provide all children with a £1 book token so they can go into a bookshop and either buy one of the £1 World Book Day titles published that year, or put it towards a more expensive book. However, if your children want to dress up and you’d like to buy them the most fancy pants costume going, go for it! If you enjoy dressmaking and want to spend weeks making a costume from scratch, super! You don’t have to spend any money at all if you don’t want. My daughter borrowed a mermaid costume from our very kind neighbour so she could be The Singing Mermaid (we had our book day before half term). If your child doesn’t like dressing up, great. You can be any character in any book, and how many books and stories feature normal little boys and girls who require no costumes at all? How many Muggles feature in the Harry Potter books? Matilda is just a girl with a ribbon in her hair. Charlie Bucket wears trousers and a jumper. The girl in Paper Dolls wears a little dress and a red cardigan. The Pevensie children in the Narnia books wear normal clothes. As do The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, Horrid Henry, the children in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt...see where I’m going with this?

For me, the important message we should be taking from World Book Day is that we encourage reading, imagination and creativity in our children through a number of channels. Otherwise, where will the next generation of storytellers come from?