World Book Day!

When I was a kid, did we ever have a whole day that celebrated books? Let alone a whole WEEK? I don’t ever remember this much hullabaloo around the pure unadulterated enjoyment of reading (or about the drastic need to encourage nonreaders to pick up a book, or to make sure every child, of all socioeconomic backgrounds, has books to read).

I was a bookworm, a “nerd,” but I learned early on that I needed to hide that fact from other kids for fear of the torturous bullying that being “bookish” caused.

I didn’t have the self-confidence to stand up to my tormentors, so, red-faced, I would lower my hand in class after being laughed at for answering yet another question about the assigned reading. And stay silent.

Thank goodness for adulthood. And for perspective.

Though now I’m watching my daughter come home in floods of tears after being laughed at for having her nose in a book, and it all comes back to me.

I try to teach her to be strong, and brave, and gritty, and self-accepting, and yet, inside, I’m wishing I could punch all those kids in their measly little faces.

Anger management issues aside, I’m excited at the fact that at least on one day a year, books are celebrated. Here in the UK, all school age kids get a free book! What a tremendous program and one that should be encouraged (and funded).

Yet public libraries are closing, school libraries are underfunded, and reading for pleasure is in decline. Here’s the latest research:

Nielsen Book Research’s annual study of children’s reading habits found that only 32 percent of British kids under 13 are read to daily by an adult for pleasure, down four percentage points in a year and down nine percentage points compared with 2012. Being read to is a gateway for children to read for pleasure independently but the National Literacy Trust found in a separate report that that activity in eight to 18-year olds has dropped to 52.5 percent from 58.8 percent in 2016.

https://reaction.life/reading-sharp-decline-thats-bad-news-future/

The statistics are grim.

But when I talk to other people, I hear Word Book Day labeled as “every parent’s nightmare,” rather than the unique opportunity that it is. There’s one word that seems to put the fear of all things holy into parents, and that’s “costume.”

The idea of dressing up as a book character is viewed as tedious rather than thrilling.

(Dressing up for a Where’s Wally (Where’s Waldo) fun run with the munchkins.)

I get it.

Parents are busy, and time is short, and money is tight.

But World Book Day is Halloween, but for BOOKS. What could be better than that? All the fun and none of the cavities!

When my daughter this year decided to go as Violet Beauregard from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, she spent most of the morning sticking large wads of blu-tack (poster putty) behind her ears, pretending it was gum. I am loath to think of the amount of tears that are going to be shed tonight when we try to remove that sticky mess from her hair! But at that moment she was in her element, and it was a glorious sight. One made possible by books.

So I will try to remember this as I talk to students, and laugh at the silly costumes that they have worked hard on, and enjoy the moment.

Because it’s a celebration of reading. Which sounds like the kind of holiday I would have dreamed up as a kid.

And then I’ll sit down and dream about my next children’s book …

… and consider which pair of scissors I’ll be using tonight on my daughter’s hair.

(Willy Wonka, last year…)

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