When I was a fresh faced newly qualified teacher, I took part in the very first World Book Day. Back then, the day was held on Shakespeare’s birthday (23rd April). There were no expectations about what people should wear and everyone came in cobbled together, hand-made or re-purposed outfits.
I wore the dress my mum had made for my Sixth Form leavers’ ball and went as Cinderella. This same dress has been used since as a Queen of Hearts outfit for an Alice in Wonderland themed World Book Day. Are the colours exact? No. Does it matter? No.
Over the years I’ve worn many randomly put together outfits including Cruella de Vil, The Elves and Shoemaker, Sleeping Beauty and Aliens Love Underpants. My trusty storytelling mascots Lamby and Flossie have also taken part and have costumes to match my outfits. None of them expensive; I think I’ve spent £20 total in all the years I’ve been dressing up for World Book Day. Crucially a book has always been central.
For the last ten years, World Book Day has gradually become World Book Week with schools having authors, storytellers, poets, illustrators etc visiting to inspire and encourage future readers and writers. I’m all for it. Books can open up so many opportunities as well as being wonderful for escapism and mental health.
But, like others, I’ve become slightly concerned that the focus has shifted away from the books. For some, it’s all about the costume. And normally one that’s bought off the peg. Not only is this costly for families, especially if there is more than one child, but it also takes away part of the fun and imagination. Making an outfit (and by this I mean finding what you already have at home and adapting) can spark discussions about the book, the character, why they’ve chosen that character and more.
Some schools are moving away from costumes altogether and are instead inviting children to celebrate World Book Day in other ways. Ways which really put the book at the centre of it all.
This World Book Day week, I’m in three schools where there are no costumes and a school where the theme is the very manageable and easy to create – Where’s Wally?
I still love dressing up as characters; it’s really good fun. And I love finding little matching outfits for the lambs but when all is said and done, it’s the book that is king (or queen) and rightly so.
However, you spend World Book Day, I hope it is filled with stories and adventures which you love.
We’re looking forward to seeing you all on 22nd April at Wrexham Library for the Carnival of Words Storytelling event.
Jude Lennon, Little Lamb Publishing
Wrexham Carnival of Words Patron