When I was a child, my head was always buried in a book – even when I was crossing the road (don’t try this at home, folks). My parents were both teachers, and understood the importance of introducing my sister and I to books at an early age. Reading was a godsend for those growing up in the 1980’s, when children’s television stopped at teatime and the Game Boy had yet to be invented (reading also provided a welcome distraction from the decade’s signature perms and shell suits). With today’s screens rapidly replacing storytime, a whole generation of children may potentially miss out on the joys of a freshly printed page.
what is world book day?
Raise your glasses (prescription and prosecco), then, to World Book Day; a yearly celebration of those paper portals that invite us to travel down the rabbit-hole with Alice, drink lashings of ginger beer with the Famous Five and swallow a dose of George’s Marvellous Medicine – all from the comfort of our own bedroom.
Each year, over 15 million book tokens are distributed among nursery, primary and secondary schools in the UK to celebrate World Book Day, which takes place on March 1st. Children can exchange their token at participating bookstores and supermarkets – including Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, WH Smith and Waterstones - where they will be entitled to choose one of ten pre-selected titles by authors such as Michael Bond, Julian Clary and Claire Balding, totally free of charge! Alternatively, older children can use their token to save £1 on any full-priced book or audiobook, or one of five pre-selected, full-length books for which they’ll only need to pay £1.50. Book tokens must be redeemed between February 26th and March 25th, 2018.
why is reading important?
Reading equips your child with the tools they will need to carve out lasting relationships - from the playroom to the boardroom. Books ignite the imagination, encourage independent thinking and prepare children for the classroom, where they will be introduced to the concept of homework and expected to process written information. Sitting down to read a book has also been shown to refine listening and language skills, reduce stress and improve the attention span, which has never been more in danger thanks to today’s countless, screen-shaped distractions.
encouraging your child to read
Bedtime stories are a brilliant introduction to books; make them memorable by acting out the parts (don’t worry, nobody’s watching!). Ask your child to help you sound out words, find letters and turn pages. Let them see you reading for pleasure – whether it’s a book, magazine or cereal packet (each to their own). Line their bedroom wall with paperbacks to pick and choose at their leisure; if this isn’t possible, join your local library and make regular visits part of your child’s routine. Ask library staff to recommend books that reflect your child’s interests and are likely to engage and inspire them.
getting into character
World Book Day is a chance for your child to dress as their favourite literary character – not yours; they won’t win extra house points if you send them to school dressed as Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Bookmark these tips to bring their best-loved paper personality to life:
• Choose a character whose outfit is already hanging in your child’s wardrobe, such as a football kit (Super Soccer Boy), leotard (Angelina Ballerina) or jeans (Where’s Wally?).
• Recycle last year’s Halloween costume; from run-of-the-mill witch to Room on the Broom. Raid the dressing-up box and turn those tired pirate togs into Captain Pugwash.
• If your sewing skills aren’t up to scratch, accessorise their school uniform and transform them into a star pupil from Hogwarts, St. Trinian’s or Malory Towers.
• Ask your mini-me to help you conjure up a homemade costume. If you can’t spare the time (or patience), mosey online to pick up a pre-prepared outfit.
Whether your child dresses as Peter Pan or a page from the Argos catalogue (yes, really!), World Book Day is about celebrating the joys of reading, in a relentlessly digital world. Reading – much like a marriage – is for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. If this life-enhancing hobby is yet to become a part of your child's routine, don't worry – it's never too late to turn over a new leaf, and March 1st is the perfect time to start.
If you’d like to learn more, visit World Book Day.