The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

No costumes and plenty of time to read with your children – at last, a World Book Day we can all enjoy

With schools closed, the pressure of dressing to impress is, finally, off

<p>Children of key workers, Henry (4) and Arthur (7), dressed up for World Book Day at The Prince of Wales School in Dorchester but for most children, it will be spent at home this year</p>

Children of key workers, Henry (4) and Arthur (7), dressed up for World Book Day at The Prince of Wales School in Dorchester but for most children, it will be spent at home this year

“Can you dress up as Elsa for World Book Day?” This, according to Google, is one of the most popular searches associated with World Book Day 2021.

Like everything else of late, this World Book Day is different. Without school, friends, sports and clubs, now, surely, is the time for even the most reluctant children to start reading?

Yet with libraries and bookshops shut, getting stories into their hands has been difficult. Many schools have, understandably, implemented quarantine schemes for their books, adding yet another layer of admin to the lives of exhausted teachers and librarians.

A report recently released by the World Book Day charity has found that 40 per cent of primary school children were unable to take books home, and access to reading material remains a serious issue, particularly among disadvantaged children and families. Having spent desperate days juggling homeschooling and work, many parents – and I include myself – balk at prolonging bedtime with one more story.

We associate World Book Day with children dressing up as their favourite book character; for some, it’s an arms race staged on Facebook, with ever more elaborate creations designed to showcase exactly how much their child cares about reading (and their parents care about showing their friends).

For others, it means dropping £15 in Sainsbury’s on a Stick Man outfit (because, yes, you can spend £15 on making your child look like a stick). As in previous years, the major retailers are cashing in, with each costume around three times the price of a single book.

But go to the front page of the day’s official website and there is not a word about costumes. There are links to free audiobooks, to author and illustrator academies, and recommended reading material for babies through to teens.

Best of all, this year, as every year, there is a raft of new titles, especially commissioned from a host of terrific authors, which can be purchased with a World Book Day token for only £1. As they are distributed by schools, getting and using a token may be more challenging than usual, but an e-version is available, and if you’re unable to put a book in your supermarket trolley, take comfort in knowing that the tokens will be honoured for as long as stocks last, and that bookshop owners across the UK are counting down the days until they throw open their doors.

It’s the slimmest of silver linings, but this strange, sad World Book Day may actually be one of the best. With schools closed, the pressure of dressing to impress is, finally, off. Authors, who usually spend the week racing around the country in a desperate bid to meet as many of their readers as possible, have instead taken their events online. A few clicks and your child can watch live readings, take part in Q&As, draw along with illustrators and write stories all of their own.

As a children’s author myself, I am hugely saddened at this lost opportunity to meet my readers face to face. As a parent, I am delighted at this explosion of online resources; authors have never been so accessible.

But at the end of all these Facebook live sessions, Zoom readings and YouTube tutorials, when that Stick Man outfit is in a crumpled heap on the floor, lies the moment that matters most, and that is when a child reads. Not because they know they should, or because they have been told they must, but because they want to. Because it will bring them pleasure.

Getting stories into our children’s hands is hard, and it is worth it; there is nothing, nothing, more powerful than a good book. They transport and they transform; they are how we make sense of the world around us, even when that world seems to make no sense at all. Stories are foundations, and they are wings.

So, yes, let your kid dress up as Elsa, if that’s what they want. Or don’t bother with the costume at all. But I’d urge you to encourage your child to go to the shelf and choose a book, any book, and to spend just a few minutes reading it together. That, in the end, is what World Book Day is all about.

Marianne Levy has written five books for children and young people. Her most recent, ‘Accidental Superstar’ and ‘Face The Music’, are published by Macmillan and are available now

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in