Children's books
15 July 2020

Book worms, book lovers and World Book Day

By Rachel Sloane

Book worms, book lovers and World Book Day – let’s get our children reading for pleasure.

Most of us have a favourite children’s book and what it is depends upon what was popular when we were young, or what we read to our own children. The Hungry Caterpillar, The Famous Five, Mr Men, The Railway Children, Harry Potter, or Danny, Champion of the World…. What would be your favourite character?

Most people are fully aware of the importance of children learning to read, and to love books in the process. Some children will only ever choose to read about a favourite hobby or area of interest, whilst other will soon be immersed in a story about fictional characters, often with very different lives to their own.

Organisations such as Ipswich Children’s Book Group, the Felixstowe Children’s Book Festival, and libraries work hard to teach and inspire children of all ages and, early next month, bookshops will join forces with schools in the annual event, World Book Day.

Across Suffolk and Norfolk parents (and some grandparents, too) will soon be thinking about costumes as this is the day that school children talk about books, listen to visiting authors and often dress up as their favourite character.

I remember when I was in Bangkok, visiting my granddaughter’s international school when, for 30 mins, everyone (teachers, students and ancillary staff) stopped what they were doing, and read a book. My grandson at his British school, two years ago, spent the day wearing his sister’s dress – yes, he loves David Walliams books, especially The Boy Who Wore a Dress! Very brave, I thought.

World Book Day is a registered charity that aims to give every child and young person a book of their own. It’s also a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. Designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, it is marked in over 100 countries all over the world.

British schools register with the charity and then receive packs of £1 book tokens, which children can take to a participating bookshop and swap for one of 15 specially published books. Or they can put it towards a book of their choice. The charity is funded by a wide selection of publishers, as well as a sponsor, National Book Tokens, and booksellers nationwide, who fully fund the cost of the book token redemptions. 15 millions tokens will be distributed this year.

At Dereham Neatherd High School in Norfolk, they have a strong ethos regarding the importance of literacy with author visits throughout the year and a popular library that is always a hive of activity. World Book Day is a special event in the school calendar, however.

“As well as signing up to receive the special £1 book tokens for every student, we also hold an array of activities for a week-long celebration,” remembered school librarian, Lorraine Gill. “Some of are highlights have been the Literary Cake Bake where students are asked to bake and decorate a book themed cake for judging, a Mad Hatters Tea Party, Inter house form quiz, ‘lunch time book swaps, staff ‘shelfies’ where students match the bookshelf to the staff members,” she continued. “Over the week we also invite in authors for each year group who give an engaging presentation plus various creative writing workshops during the course of the day. In the past years we have also held a character dress up non uniform day and have seen each department choosing a book theme to really bring the characters and books alive as well as some fantastic costumes from students the money raised from the event has always been to fund our Patron of Reading for a year.”

Major supermarkets and large book chains are involved with World Book Day as well as many of our independent book shops. The Norfolk Children’s Book Centre, in Alby, Norwich, which has over 60,000 books in stock is owned by Marilyn Brockleburst, who was previously a librarian. The main work of the shop is to provide book sales and story reading sessions for schools, bookshops for national and local conferences and literacy festivals, and they take authors into local schools for events.

“We use the whole four weeks while the book vouchers are valid to visit schools with lovely book displays, and to distribute the free World Book Day books,” Marilyn said. “It’s a highlight of our year, since many children may not even own one book until they are given the free one. Each year we buy several thousand of these books from publishers to distribute free to children”

Does World Book Day achieve its aims? According to their website, research conducted for World Book Day’s 20th anniversary via the National Literacy Trust’s 2016 Annual Literacy Survey, revealed that 89.5% of Key Stage 2 pupils were aware of World Book Day, and six in ten said they were inspired to read more by the campaign.

Amazingly, the book that 1 in 4 children (1 in 3 for those receiving school meals) ‘bought’ with their 2016 £1 book token was the first they have ever personally owned!

Sophie Green is the Children’s Stock Librarian for Suffolk Libraries and a children’s author herself.

“Libraries are essential to support reading for pleasure because children are able to choose the books they would like to try, with no cost to borrow them (and in Suffolk there is no cost to reserve a title and no overdue charges on children’s books either),” she said. “This means that young readers can experiment and explore, read widely and adventurously, and to help them we make sure we have a huge variety of books so that there is something for everyone to find.

“Owning a book is very special too – it means it’s yours for keeps, whenever you need it, to be read and re-read and this is really important because the book you own is always available and never has to be returned. So, we are right behind the aims of World Book Day as it means more children have their own books they can cherish. For some children this might spark a love of reading.”

However good our libraries are, there is nothing like having a brand-new book of your own, one where no-one else has ever before turned the pristine pages.

For more information:

The £1 vouchers can be spent from 27th February to 29th March, and this year’s chosen books are,

Bing’s Splashy Adventure
Supertato: Book are Rubbish! by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
Amelia Fang and the Bookworm Gang by Laura Ellen Anderson
Dogman by Dav Pilkey
Evie in the Jungle by Matt Haig
The Day We Met the Queen by Onjali Q. Rauf
Kid Normal and the Loudest Library by Chris Smith and Greg James
The Case of the Drowned Pearl by Robin Stevens
Alex Rider Undercover: The Classified Files by Anthony Horowitz
My Awesome Guide to Getting Really Good at Stuff by Matthew Syed
Split by Muhammed Khan
The Kissing Booth -Road ! by Beth Reekles

(This article first appeared in Suffolk Norfolk Life in February 2020)