As well intentioned as it is, World Book Day has begun to wear thin with parents who are strapped for cash. Even teachers have come to loathe this time of year thanks to the backlash they get when the kids go home begging for a costume to be made or bought.
What's meant to be a celebration of books has become an excuse for supermarkets to leech money from strapped families as they flood the aisles with a horribly limited and generally non-reading-related range of plastic-laden costumes.
Playing make believe can absolutely enhance a child's experience of a story. But, to the best of my knowledge, unlike READING or BEING READ TO, it's not going to improve your chances in life. It's just going to hurt your back pocket and the planet. Disgraceful really, from a cause that is supposed to exist to get books into every kids' hands.
I stress that I'm not blaming World Book Day. I love World Book Day! But I'm really fed up with books and reading for pleasure becoming demonised. I know lots of schools and families still want to celebrate, and teachers and busy parents and guardians don't always have time to dream up alternative methods. So I thought it was worth compiling some cool alternatives I've seen at schools when I've visited over the years. Thanks to the reading community online for being so generous in sharing ideas. It's a goldmine! You can find so much more just with a bit of a dig around.
VISIT THE LOCAL LIBRARY
Sadly not all regions are lucky enough to have a School Library Service. Many aren't even lucky enough to still have a local library, or even a school library. If you do have a local library, why not organise a trip there on World Book Day? Get sorted far enough in advance (and make sure you give them fair warning!) and you can send home consent forms to make sure each kid has a library card. What better gift on World Book Day than the gift of lifelong access to free books? Librarians are often happy to visit schools and talk to children about how the library works.
BOOK AN AUTHOR AND/OR ILLUSTRATOR VISIT
Meeting someone who's truly passionate about reading has a lasting impact on young minds. Consider clubbing together with other local schools and arrange multiple visits if it's hard to drum up the funds. Popular presenters can get booked up a year in advance, so try to plan ahead. And remember, books and their creators are for life, not just for World Book Day.
Hold a quiz in class. You can find plenty online, or make up your own if you can find the time. Can kids guess the author or illustrator based on a book title or cover? Can they guess the character's name based on a description lifted from the text? Can they guess what happens next after you read the first page?
The World Book Day website is a brilliant place to go for more ideas and fabulous free resources. The possibilities really are endless when you centre the fun around the act of READING. Check out the videos you can use in school, as well as live broadcasts with famous authors on the day. It's always super inspiring for children to feel like they're part of something that's happening in other schools across the country - and it's why World Book Day deserves to be loved and observed every year, whatever you end up wearing.
BLIMEY. I consider myself a very lucky person - I always dreamed of becoming a children's author, and my dream came true. I get to do what I love, every day. I get to work with the most incredibly lovely, talented people. It's ridiculous. I genuinely wake up most days and wonder if the last twelve years have all been an actual dream. And then yesterday, ANOTHER dream came true.
It feels greedy to even have other dreams when my big wish has already been granted, but I do still have a few goals and ambitions. One of them has always been to be shortlisted for a funny prize. Just shortlisted, mind you, to win was another dream entirely. But it happened!
TEN FAT SAUSAGES by me and Tor Freeman won Best Laugh Out Loud Picture Book in the 2020 LOLLIES Awards! I know!!! Honestly!!! Tor is in America at the minute, pursuing a dream of her own, so me and Sausage Number 2 attended the super fun awards ceremony in London.
I caught up with lots of friends in the publishing world and met loads of very excited children. It was a wonderful day, and a bit of a dream in itself. I was handed the award by JULIA DONALDSON, for crying out loud! Surreal or what?! I'm only sorry I had to shoot off early to catch a train. (Another dream of mine is an underground high speed travelator between Somerset and EVERYWHERE. Still working on that one.)
BRAVO to all the other authors and illustrators whose hilarious books made the shortlist. Reading your books at home with my kids is a delight, sharing them with my Patron of Reading school is an easy win and your excellent creations always inspire me in my own.
Thank you to Tor for being a brilliant and incredibly funny co-creator. Thank you to Andersen Press for backing such a daft book. Thank you to James Catchpole for (eventually) seeing the joy in slaying pork products. Thank you to Scholastic for a truly fantastic day. And THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to vote for our book. I'm truly staggered - and still waiting to wake up...
Michelle Robinson is a