What is World Book Day supposed to be? Is it a chance to dress up or is it a chance to encourage children to read and love books?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed countless social media “World Book Day costume ideas” posts. Type the event into Google, and every search result has one common attribute. Ask a child “what is World Book Day?” and you’re greeted with a unanimous verdict of “dressing up!” Furthermore, take a trip to the supermarket and you’re faced with rows of fancy dress, often without a single book in sight (with the exception of celebrity authors).
Now I’m not knocking celebrity authors during a time when only 35% of 10-year-olds in England report that they like reading ‘very much’ (McGrane et al. 2017). There is a plethora of research to support the all-round benefits reading for pleasure provides, for example:
“Reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education and is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background.” (Sullivan and Brown, 2013)
However, Harris (2017) argues celebrity authors marketed on being “funny” are reducing children’s fiction to a minority of faces. If we want to model an inclusive society, children need to relate and see themselves in the themes they read. Therefore, we need to provide a diverse range of books where pupils have the opportunity to investigate other lives, worlds and perspectives. These encourage children to think, question and empathise. After all, a child is not reading if they cannot comprehend the text.
In light of this, shouldn’t World Book Day expose children to a range of fiction and non-fiction? For example, exploring stories, folk and fairy tales, myths and legends, classic and modern children’s fiction, poetry and picture books. World Book Day should be about celebrating the work we do year-round to promote a love of reading.
There are PLENTY of non-uniform events throughout the academic year, and I’d much rather a parent spent £15 on books rather than a supermarket costume. Furthermore, with the emphasis on dressing up, parents are more involved than the pupils! After all, the purpose of World Book Day is to “explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing children with the opportunity to have a book of their own”