I’m going to be controversial: I have a hard time enjoying World Book Day.
I know, I know, it’s great to encourage a love of books in children. And it’s so much fun.
My main issue with it is that my children struggle with sensory issues and don’t like changes to routine, so the pressure of dressing up can be really stressful for them. We always prepare in advance and we always still have at least one morning meltdown on the day and usually a last-minute change to the planned costume, despite having planned it out, checked and re-checked for several days before. I have to say, I sympathise with them: I’m not a fan of fancy dress either.
The other issue I have with it is how flipping commercialised it has become. The supermarkets stock costumes and books weeks beforehand. Every blog and media outlet out there publishes lists of recommended books. Social media is awash with the kind of comparative, competitive posts I hate, when parents feel they have to trot out theatre-standard costumed children to stand in front of the front door with gorgeous smiles.
Half the time, the costumes end up with characters from books the children haven’t actually read themselves, or which are from films or TV (and I am guilty on both these counts).
Does it really foster a love of books to whip up all this hype about a glorified fancy dress day?
As a devoted reader myself, I want my children to love books too. I’ll admit I appreciated the book tokens this morning, when we took the children for a jaunt to the shops to choose their new books. Their choices were really fun, and sharing them over a milkshake felt like a special activity to do together.
But it was equally fun choosing our books in the library, which we do regularly anyway. I always say we’ll just choose one or two, and we always come out with more than we can carry. Going to the library has become a great habit for us. It has encouraged the children to try different types of books and to be ambitious about the books they can try to read. We have shared books on long car journeys; we look at them each evening before bed; we’ve taken them outside on hot summer days and we’ve built cosy dens in the winter with big piles of books to look through.
I think the library was possibly where my own love of books started, as well. I remember that each time we moved house as I was growing up, we’d take a walk to the nearest library and sign up, and then make regular trips to restock from then on. I was the child that read under the covers after lights out, took my book up to the tree house in the garden and read covertly during boring lessons.
This Lent, I’ve decided not to buy new books, but just to borrow from the library or occasionally buy a cheap one on my Kindle. I want to get away from the commercialism and clutter. We don’t need more piles of stuff in our houses. Or more pressure to keep up appearances or do organised fun. Reading, I think, should remain one of life’s simple pleasures.
What do you think about World Book Day?