World Book Day For All

March 9, 2013 2:22 pm

booksOn the morning of Thursday 7th March, I was flicking through the BBC website to compensate for not having a TV at university and I happened across an article with a negative view towards children going to school in fancy dress for World Book Day. Two things struck me about this. The first was that I had no idea that it was World Book Day. How on earth had that passed me by? The second was that dressing up as a fictional character constitutes a lot of happy memories from primary school. The most vivid memory I have is going to school dressed as Mulan (not technically a book character I know, but give my seven-year old self a break). My mum had put so much effort into creating the outfit and I felt like a princess, despite being a little jealous of the Anastasia outfit one of my friends was wearing. Then there  were the years that I went as Little Red Riding Hood, Pocahontas, Molly Moon – please read Georgia Byng’s stories if you’ve heard of Molly Moon, they’re brilliant – plus a few others.

Now I’m not usually one for fancy dress, but as a child World Book Day was the highlight of the year. For one day, I could imagine that I was one of my fictional heroines and it was also the one day of the year where it was socially acceptable to be a bookworm. I remember that we had to explain to other class members which character we had chosen and why we liked the book that they were from. What better way is there to encourage children to read? Children today are surrounded by so many screens that when you give them a book full of black and boring words and they won’t be interested. Ask them to imagine that they are that character that they admire and they’ll soon be motivated to pick up a book. Whilst thinking of characters to dress up as that won’t break the budget might be a heart-ache for parents, I think it has to be worth the effort, even if it just means that children read one book a year other than Harry Potter.

Not only does World Book Day encourage children to read, though, it also stimulates their imagination. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but I’ve also always enjoyed writing. By reading more, children who participate in World Book Day will be able to come up with more imaginative ideas, even whole imagined worlds, and will hopefully be encouraged to write them down. Becoming a writer takes years and years of practice and a bit of luck – but encouraging children to read and imagine from a young age is the starting point of all the wondrous years to come.world book day

Don’t think that World Book Day is all about children though: writers benefit as well. Children can exchange their £1 World Book Day voucher for one of eight books, meaning that writers get more publicity for the fantastic work that they do. This year, the chosen eight books include some well-known authors like Francesca Simon, who writes the Horrid Henry series, and Cathy Cassidy, but also some less known writers like Liz Pichon and Shirley Hughes. As a child, the thought of getting a free book was like finding gold at the end of the rainbow, and circulating more books for children can surely only be a good thing.

What troubles me though is that World Book Day does only seem to be for children of primary school age, and once you get to secondary school the fun stops. Personally I’d still love to have some part in World Book Day (maybe not the fancy dress side though) and I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t even realised that World Book Day was happening on 7th March. Everyone should be encouraged to read, whether young or old, and the event of World Book Day should extend to everyone. I’m proud to be a bookworm, but it would be better if everyone could share in that, if only for one day a year.

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