Happy World Book Day everyone!
Because if you live in the UK, then today is World Book Day. If you live somewhere else then it probably isn’t. Because we ‘celebrate’ World Book Day on a different day to the rest of the world. Which means that we should call it ‘UK Book Day’. But we don’t. We call it World Book Day. Which is perfectly sensible and not in the least bit confusing.
Today is one of the most important days of the year in the quest to encourage children, the world over (although mainly, in the UK), to ditch social media, casual violence and being scornful about everything and instead pick up a good book. Because sadly it is an undisputable fact that no child anywhere in the world would choose to read for pleasure and unless we dedicate a day to letting them dress up in costumes that may or may not have anything to do with literature, then we will never get the message across to them that reading is the best.
Working in a school, I come face to face with the horrifying reality of childhood illiteracy every day. Well most days. Obviously during the pandemic I haven’t had to deal with the ignorant little blighters too much, and alas they mostly won’t be in school today, but I can assure you that whatever you may have heard about the antipathy our young people have towards books, the reality is far far worse. There have been times when I have introduced a book to a class and they have stared at me in genuine wonder, unable to identify the strange object that I have in my hands. One child even ran from the room screaming in terror.
Thankfully World Book Day allows us to communicate the value of books to children in a way that their empty little minds can understand. Which is by dressing up in an overpriced costume bought with money that would in no way be better spent on, you know, actual books.
Obviously I am being facetious. Lots of children don’t like reading, lots of children didn’t like reading when I was a child. But oddly enough quite a lot of children do like reading. World Book Day does very little to change the status quo.
It does, irritatingly enough, serve as a reminder to me that I never have time to read anymore.
Except to Little Proclaims, every night before she goes to bed. Which is possibly my favourite time of the day, both from the daddy-daughter bonding perspective and also the fact that she will soon be asleep and my home will temporarily be safe from wanton destruction.
Fortunately Little Proclaims is still too young to care about World Book Day but it is, so I’m led to believe, quite a stressful day for many parents. I’m sure, even those who are desperate to get their offspring back into schools next week are not all that sorry that this year’s ‘event’ fell on a day when schools in England still happen to be closed.
If I was to drop the churlish attitude briefly, I think, as a result of World Book Day, children are able to get a free book, which is, of course, no bad thing. And I don’t, for a second, question the good intentions behind the original concept, but, as with so many things, it does appear that the message seems to have been lost along the way.
And I will be an absolute hypocrite, (of course I will) when Little Proclaims is old enough to want to dress up. And I will let her go to school dressed as Elsa off of Frozen if that’s what she wants to do. But my endeavours to ensure she enjoys reading books will, I hope, be as a result of us continuing to enjoy our bedtime stories together for many more years to come.