We all know the importance of reading; it nurtures a child’s imagination, it develops vocabulary, it helps to develop emotional literacy and empathy, and when adults read to children it boosts their sense of self-worth and strengthens the bond between the adult and child, whether that’s at home or in school.
Reading and behaviour
It has effects on the child’s behaviour as it can provide a sense of safety, calmness and consistency of routine.
I love books. I love reading. The feel in your hand, the smell of pages, the senses they trigger and the thoughts and emotions they evoke cannot be found for me in any other medium, I have tried audio books and reading on a kindle, (other e readers are available) but a book is something different.
Which is why I love World Book Day (March 3rd), in fact any day which promotes books and reading would be a special day for me, so why is it in some areas of society that World Book Day has come to be a day to be mocked or feared, even sometimes in my own household.
Is it that the meaning has been lost? Has the focus now become not on promoting reading and books, but more on dressing up and fancy dress? As you walk into any supermarket around this time of year, you see racks of clothes designated as “World Book Day” costumes, but often not a book in sight of any of them.
I myself have fallen foul of this in a school I used to run, we had all staff dress up as a character from their favourite book, hoping to promote reading and books, however after having been asked for the hundredth time that day, why the teachers were all in fancy dress, I realised we had got something wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t dress up, or dressing up is wrong, but how do we get it right, how do we celebrate World Book Day in a way which doesn’t lose its true meaning?
School best practice
I am privileged to visit and train in schools up and down the country and get to speak to many headteachers and it is amazing how often this subject crops up, especially around this time of year, asking what I see elsewhere and what other people do. So, I thought I would share some of the amazing practice that I see in the schools that I work with.
I work with one school who invites in governors, parents, grandparents and staff to read to pupils from their favourite children’s book and explain what it means to them, explain the emotion behind it and why that book is important to them. They then ask the pupils to do the same in their classrooms, almost like a book show and tell.
The staff there have reported anecdotally that it has had an impact on the number of pupils who then want to get the books out of the library to read for themselves.
Another school I saw was running a book swap shop, where during the school day pupils could bring in books they no longer wanted or had read, donate them to the stall and take other books in return.
The number you could take away wasn’t limited, as long as you were sensible, meaning the less affluent pupils whose families maybe couldn’t afford books, could take away more than they had before and expand their literary horizons.
They also allowed adults to swap books after school to help promote reading with parents also, so as to include the whole family.
One secondary academy that I have worked with launched their adult literacy programme in the week of World Book Day, this encompassed literacy classes in the evenings, free of charge to parents, along with an opportunity to take books away to read from their donated library.
They recognised that their pupils will struggle to enjoy reading if there aren’t books in their home and reading isn’t role modelled by their parents. Again the anecdotal evidence from this initiative is great and teachers report that pupils of parents who have attended the course reading has improved, as has their behaviour in lessons.
Finally, one primary school allows pupils to come to school in fancy dress, but they also to run a competition to dress a potato up as their favourite book character. This ensures everyone can get involved without the potential cost of fancy dress being prohibitive. What they must do with the potato though, is explain which book it is from and why they love it. They’ve found the pupils really enjoy the activity and talking about their design and why they love it.
Like any book or piece of writing the ideas behind what people have done to promote World Book Day are creative and try to get to the real point they are trying to convey. So however you celebrate World Book Day this year, don’t lose the true meaning of it, let’s invoke a feeling of love and passion for books and reading in our youngsters and allow it to take them to places they’ve never been before.