The World Book Day bus is here!
Grasp your tokens and fill your boots!
Glorious, life-affirming books!
Books that pluck us out of our beige council estates and into Hogwarts and Hobbiton and Narnia and Magic Faraway Trees.
Books that give us a mad yearning to learn more.
Books that inspire us to write our own books.
Books that show us the way and help us see the importance of not being Veruca Salts or Augustus Gloops.
The original concept of World Book Day is admirable and joyous.
But, for anyone strolling down Sainsbury’s aisles this week and seeing nothing but plastic Cinderella costumes, here’s a brief reminder of its birth in the UK.
The school-calendar staple was founded by Baroness Gail Rebuck (also Chair of Penguin Random House UK and founder of Quick Reads), then launched in 1998 by Tony Blair to improve reading and writing standards.
I can imagine Gail’s vision now: playgrounds full of Prince Hamlets and Little Women and Mad Hatters and Mrs Twits.
In reality, it’s become an annual night-before scramble, forking out 20-pound notes for an Elsa dress.
Parents aren’t feeling the merriment. They’ve turned into grumpy Twits themselves.
Which means the whole purpose of World Book Day is muddied.
It’s not even about books anymore. I know, I know, it’s fun. Stop being such a tight-arsed literary-pushing grump, Nina.
But HOWAY. Kids are dressing up as everyone from Mrs Hinch to Donald Trump – even Christian Grey is more acceptable than those (an actual costume an 11-year-old Mancunian turned up to school in five years back which caused absolute RUCTIONS).
The old-fashioned magic is fading and we’re losing sight of the whole purpose of the day: to spark excitement in books.
Lest we forget Roald Dahl’s words:
“If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.”
Remember the magic. Reignite it.
- Read books yourself.
- Let your children see you reading books.
- Read books with your children.
- Read more books with your children.
- Swap books.
- Watch authors doing readings of books on YouTube (or take budding young brains to see them at a bookstore near you).
- Act out scenes from books.
- Set a spending limit on World Book Day costumes (or only use what you already have). Fashioning a tinfoil crown and sending your little one into school with a box of Turkish delight (C. S. Lewis’ White Witch) is a thing of creative and financial joy.
- Ditch the costumes and donate a quid to give the school or local library an update.
- Read books.
Happy World Book Day 2020, one and all.